An OutSTANDING welcome: My Birth Story (& Surprise Gender Reveal)
A HOME BIRTH.
WHAT?! I just had a home birth!!! I’m still reeling in disbelief.
Just 7 days ago, I had our second son in the room we live in. It feels so surreal, I almost feel like I’m imagining the memory. Short of saying, our birth was a dream come true, especially for me.
Choosing to birth our second at home
There were many factors for my having chosen to have our second baby at home. The pandemic was an obvious factor to consider; my uber clingy, breastfed toddler was another: I just couldn’t imagine leaving the child I had not left for more than 3 hours at a time to go to the hospital, then to come back a few days later with another baby… could you just imagine the look on his face? All I could see was betrayal! Haha! I told Nicollo that I wanted Inio to be involved in the birth of his sibling, perhaps to set the tone of their relationship from the get-go. I even made Inio watch some birthing videos beforehand to prepare him psychologically. He knew that there was a baby in my tummy, and Mama had to push, just like the mommies in the videos, to bring the baby out. He knew what to expect!
Little Inio, now a Kuya.
But even before all of this, in my heart, I’ve always wanted to have a home birth. In fact, even with Inio, it was an idea I toyed with plenty a-time, but it just sounded CRAZY, especially since I had no idea what birth was like, given that it was my first. However, I knew that I wanted to birth all my children with as little medical intervention as possible. There’s nothing wrong with getting an epidural, I know that, and I fully respect the choice of every woman who goes into the labor — whether it’s choosing to do a C-Section (elected, or emergency), or taking pain relief. Birth is hard, folks, and the most important thing is a healthy baby and a healthy mama. The decision to birth my kids unmedicated was a personal one — I wanted to experience birth in its fullness, and I wanted to know what my body was capable of.
Preparing for our home birth
So in my last entry, I wrote about how I birthed Inio unmedicated. What I went through with my first birth gave me the confidence to pursue a home birth. When I found out I was pregnant again, I immediately reached out to Irina, my doula, and the whole process began (believe it or not, I only sold the idea to Nicollo AFTER having reached out to Irina. Hahaha!). She then introduced me to Aileen, our midwife, and we all started to prepare for my birth.
Nicollo and I with our birth team: Doula Irina and Midwife Aileen
Irina also taught me some exercises to get the baby into optimal position, and on top of that, I exercised a lot during pregnancy, which, in retrospect, helped during labor.
We also decided to hold off knowing the baby’s gender until birth. It wasn't intentional at first: we had inconclusive ultrasounds, then the next one the doctor ordered was scheduled at 35 weeks (check-ups and ultrasounds were so few due to the pandemic). Might as well wait! We had a name for a boy: Bianco Roberto; and a girl: Adriana Noelle. And so we all awaited this mystery baby’s arrival in eager anticipation.
So, here goes! Bianco’s birth story:
We all thought that I’d be having the baby mid-November. My due date was the 5th of December, but because this was my second, it just made sense that the baby could come sooner.
We were prepared to have him at 37 weeks, but the days passed and still, nothing. No contractions, no bloody show. At 38 weeks, still, nothing. At this point, Nicollo, Inio and I had already been going on our daily walks to help jumpstart labor. We even had a couple of false alarms, because there were some pretty painful contractions that came and went, but never at a regular interval.
Then at 39 weeks and four days, while we were on our daily walk, I suddenly felt like I couldn’t keep up with the two boys. I had to walk much more slowly because I felt a ‘side stitch’ kind of pain whenever I exerted effort. I didn’t want to get my hopes up because of the past false alarms, but I had a feeling labor was near.
Preparing for labor
We went home and had dinner, but I still didn’t feel anything. After bathing Inio and putting him to sleep, the contractions started coming. I started timing them at 9:22PM, and noticed a regular interval. 5 minutes apart, 1 minute long each. When I had about 5 of those, I alerted my birth team.
By 11PM, The contractions were persistent, so I decided to ask our birth team and our photographer to come. While they were en route, we transferred Inio to another room and started filling up the tub.
Timing my contractions & preparing the room for birth
Nicollo filling up the tub
Our photographer arrived first, followed by Irina at around midnight. When Irina saw me, she said I didn’t look like I was in active labor yet! I was smiling (super excited) and chatty in between contractions. I told her though that I was hoping that by the time Aileen saw me, I’d be around 7cm, but I was prepared to hear that I hadn’t progressed so far yet. Whatever it was, I was ready.
Smiling and chatty in between contractions
My chosen position for labor
The contractions started coming really frequently and very intensely. I found a great position to labor in that took the pressure off my back, and decided to stay in this comfortable position throughout the contractions. Irina coached me throughout my waves, and provided counter pressure in my lower back, which helped ease the surges a lot.
Meanwhile, Inio, who isn’t used to sleeping without me, woke up twice, and I had to breastfeed him to calm him down. This was probably one of the hardest points during labor — latching him gave me really intense waves, and I had to be quiet through them all so as not to wake him up!
Doula Irina massaging me through a wave
While the contractions were progressing, my midwife, Aileen, still hadn’t left Marikina. I started to get worried because we couldn’t seem to book a willing driver for her. Since she was coming from Marikina and we were in Alabang, 3 drivers cancelled the bookings. After a short prayer, she finally booked a rider! By 1:20AM, she was en route.
At 2:00AM, Aileen finally arrived! Hallelujah! And for the first time since getting pregnant, she facilitated an internal exam (IE) to check my progress. I hated these when I was pregnant with Inio! They were so painful and so uncomfortable (they stripped my membranes every time they did an IE), so I prepared myself for the discomfort and the pain. But Aileen was so gentle! And when she checked… I couldn’t believe it! 9cm! We were all jumping for joy. The end was near, and labor was a breeze so far. Labor was more than ideal.
Taking a selfie to remember the sweet victory
Soon enough, I told Irina I could feel the head descending. At around 3:20AM, I had a few (just three if I remember correctly) really intense contractions, then felt the urge to push. They then assisted me into the water — it was INSTANT relief. It was too relaxing that I felt like the contractions weren’t as intense as they were on land.
Relaxing in the water
Joking in between contractions. Hahaha
At almost the same time, Inio had woken up from his sleep. He got up, saw and smiled at his dad, and marched downstairs to the front of the house and started playing with the sand. It was a hilarious commercial break for all of us.
"Who plays outside at 3:30 in the morning?!" - Irina
As I labored in the pool, I took an all-fours position. Aileen put a wipe with Clary Sage oil near my nose, and every time I smelled it, a longer, more intense wave followed. “I’m scared to push,” I told them. And I really was — the memory of pushing Inio lingered. It was so painful and I was scared to go through it again. Every time a wave came, I pushed, and pushed hard. But the fear was holding me back. Aileen saw it, too. The muscles clenched as I pushed, as if I was holding the baby in. It had gone on this way for about 40 minutes and I felt like I wasn’t progressing. I started to feel really tired.
Trying to push in a squatting position
The baby’s head was RIGHT THERE, but it wouldn’t descend. Aileen even invited me to touch it. I hesitated at first — I was scared! But when I got the courage to, I felt a soft mass and realized how close we were to having our baby. I shifted positions in the pool: I squatted, I got on my back, but still, no progress. At this point, I was exhausted. Thankfully, Irina and Aileen were both so encouraging. If not for them, I may have just given up!
Irina then invited me to go back to the bed and ride out the waves to help the baby come down. I begrudgingly agreed — the water was so comforting and relaxing, I didn't want to leave. But I knew there was wisdom in her invitation. I got out of the pool and between water and land, another surge. Finally on the bed, I naturally took the all-fours position again, since it was where I was most comfortable. It still wasn’t working. At one point, I even begged, no, YELLED at my body: "OPEN! OPEN! OPEN!" through the most painful contractions. "The position isn't working for her," Aileen said. They asked me to try being on my back. Still, nothing. Finally, Irina invited me to try a standing position. We just needed to help the baby come down, and the use of gravity just seemed to make sense. "Once the baby comes down a bit more, we could move back to the pool," Irina suggested. At this point, I was willing to try anything.
Midwife Aileen supporting me through a wave as we moved from the pool to the bed
Tired & afraid, but willing to try a standing position
With one foot on a bench and the other on the floor, and with Nicollo beside me, we swayed while waiting for a wave. Aileen watched from below, and Irina stood next to her. Then, just after a few seconds, a huge, powerful wave came over me and I pushed until I could feel myself breaking apart! Just like that, the baby was coming! The head was emerging. I almost wanted to hold the baby in to spare myself from the pain. Then another intense burn, another push, a resounding scream... then finally, I felt the baby slip out. Instant relief! All it took were gravity, two pushes and an insane amount of courage, then the baby made its entrance into the world.
“En caul!!!” Aileen shouted. Then, it was all over. The baby was born with the amniotic sac completely intact — a super rare birth! We were all amazed. Aileen placed the baby in my arms, and ruptured the sac. I take a peek between the baby's legs — it was a perfect baby boy. It was Bianco.
Shortly after birthing Bianco and initiating skin-to-skin, the spanking new Kuya comes upstairs and meets his brother for the first time. Despite the confusion on his face, all this mama could smell was the sweetness of the beginning of their brotherhood. It was the highlight of my entire night.
I'm so thankful to have this beautiful experience to look back on. I couldn't have done it without the support, love and encouragement I received from my small birth team: Nicollo, my birth partner, who set everything up and held my hand through it all; Irina, my doula, who coached me and encouraged me through the whole experience; Aileen, who gently and lovingly birthed my son, and even gave me a bath after giving birth; Iya, our photographer, who captured the evening so beautifully and artfully; and our angels at home, Ate Rachel, Ate Rubelyn and Ate Nora who took care of Inio and made sure we had nothing to worry about. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
What a way to welcome December! A very warm and merry Christmas, all!