Leo Alexander: Home Birth Story

I was sitting on the couch while Luna slept beside me and chatting with my friend Halma about how I didn’t think I would have the baby with Adonis’ brother visiting.  See, I had read all of this information about how when you don’t feel safe, and you don’t have privacy, your body would hold in your baby. At this point I was 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant.  I remember thinking, I will either have this baby after his brother leaves, or on May 10th. My EDD was May 5th, the same as with Luna.

The last thing that I looked up was evidence based birth, data on “going late” in your pregnancy.  You see, this was one of the reasons I preferred going to a midwife and having a home birth, I did not believe in the panic around being late. Yet, a 39 week appointment with a different provider had me feeling a bit squirrelly.  See, when I went for my appointment, the midwives and midwife assistants were all busy at births being pulled in a million directions. The woman who stepped in to my appointment mentioned that I was due soon and began to unpack what would happen after my “due date.” She described non stress tests, and long ass ultrasounds and loss of care after a certain date.  I sat quietly listening, internally panicking and then spoke up, “Wait, do I NEED to do this things or can I say no?” She told me that I would have to consent to these tests and of course I could say no. I was so panicked leaving this appointment that I thought about cancelling my next appointment with the midwives and spoke with Adonis about my plan to skip out. I just didn’t want to hear again that I was on a timeline so I figured I would just stay home and avoid the anxiety producing conversation all together.

Thankfully, when I gave in and went to my next appointment, one of my regular midwives was reassuring and told me that I had more leeway with timing because I am planning a home birth.  She did warn me that if I have to transfer after 42 weeks that the hospitals act a little insane. I felt so much better speaking to my regular midwife. I think that conversation with the person who stood in really got into my head though, which is why late at night I was googling data around “going late.” So ridiculous, and so not aligned with how I felt just the week prior when I had no concerns at all and was just submitting to the universe and allowing things to unfold as they do.

The data I found in my late night search completely relaxed me and I decided it was time to get some sleep and stop torturing myself via Google.  I went to use the bathroom before carrying Luna up the stairs (yes something I still did past 40 weeks pregnant). While on the toilet I heard these 3 weird pops that sounded kind of like my back cracking, but coming from the inside.  I was thinking ‘huh that’s weird,’ but I didn’t think much of it. Next I noticed that perhaps some of my mucus plug came out and I was like ‘hmm okay that’s interesting,’ but again didn’t think much of it. I went over to the couch to grab Luna and all of the sudden I felt like a gush was going to happen. I ran straight to the toilet, straddled it facing toward the toilet with no time to turn or take off my underwear and my water broke through my underwear and onto the floor and toilet.  It was clear with some vernix mixed in which was reassuring.

I woke up Luna and asked her to go upstairs and tell her daddy that my water broke.  She sprung right into action and groggily headed up the stairs to wake him up. He came downstairs from his slumber and I went to the kitchen for a moment when I felt another gush was going to come.  I ran back to the bathroom to try to minimize the damage around the house. I wasn’t having any contractions at this point it just felt like mild period cramping. I texted my doula at 11:37PM to let her know that my water broke and that I was going to try to lay down to rest. We chatted a bit back and forth and I gave her more specific information and at around 11:50 she told me that I should tell the midwives because they might have questions.  You see, my plan was to get the midwives involved as late as possible as my experience with Luna in NYC was less than ideal. With Luna I kept being turned away from the birthing center until finally I was admitted to L&D for “failure to progress.” I was determined to not have anything like that happen again as my hospital birth was a really bad experience in many ways.

I ended up calling the midwives as I trust my doula immensely and just let them know what was going on. ‘Nothing too big, just water breaking and some bloody show and that I was going to try to rest.’ I went upstairs and put on a pad and tried to lay down with Luna and nurse her.  The nursing only served to assist my cramping and contractions and I had to keep jumping back up to the bathroom for more gushes. I was in there trying to deal with my water breaking over and over again and I ended up flooding the bathroom!  I woke up Adonis again and was like: hey I am so sorry I just made the toilet overflow from my waters and all of the tissues. He started to mop up the floor and I stood over by the door in the “dry area” continuing to have water to flow all over the ground.  Off to a running start.

After a bit I told Adonis that I was going to go downstairs to be alone (this is where the birthing tub was set up and where I planned to birth anyway).  I went downstairs and started to have more intense contractions. I called up to him to say that the waters from the toilet upstairs also flooded the downstairs bathroom and, “by the way you may want to start filling up the tub because I think this is happening sooner rather than later.”  

I opened up the sliding door to the backyard for some fresh air and draped myself over my yoga ball kneeling on the ground to breathe through contractions.  They were getting stronger now and I felt called to make noise through them. After a while, around 1:30 AM, I called my doula, Megan, to tell her how things were progressing.  During the phone call I ended up having a contraction so I put down the phone, and put it on speaker so that she could hear. She asked if I wanted her to come by and see how I was doing and I agreed that she should come.  Megan arrived at the house around 2 am.

The moment she arrived she greeted me so warmly and I could smell beautiful essential oils on her.  I can’t tell you what a welcoming presence she has. She stayed with me and witnessed my contractions for a bit. They were irregular and I was still leaking water with many of them.  By this time, the house was getting kind of loud. Luna and my mother in law were in the living room on the same floor with the lights on and Luna watching Spirit, a Netflix animated show about horses.  Megan offered that we might try going upstairs and try some things to get the baby in a more optimal position. She mentioned that because the water was still coming out and my contractions were unequal that there was likely space between the baby’s head and my cervix and we could try some things to bring the baby down.  She helped me up the stairs and made it nice and dark in the bedroom. First she tried to have me lay near the side of the bed and throw my leg over the side. I kept hopping out of the position to get onto my hands and knees to get through contractions.

Next she had me go onto the floor onto my knees with my arms resting on the bed, and she had me take one foot and put it down into the floor.  I remember absolutely hating this position and saying something like “this feels DISGUSTING!” Yet something changed immediately once I got into the position and it was clear as disgusting as it felt that it was extremely helpful.  We switched to the left foot down and sometime around this time Adonis called the midwives to update them. At 2:30AM Adonis came into the room and saying “The midwives said that they are going to come now, is that okay with you?” All the while Adonis had been quietly filling up the birth tub.  When we did the practice run it took absolutely forever to get the tub filled. Hours.

Megan had me move to the toilet and put some yoga blocks under my feet.  Some time while I was in this position the midwife and midwife assistant came into the bathroom to assess.  They arrived at the house around 3AM. They came in and first used the doppler to listen to the babies heart.  I remember while they did this I had a contraction that hurt more than the others. I put my hand onto the wall by the toilet almost slapping the wall and holding on for support.  They also checked my blood pressure and my temperature. I remember when they touched me to check things that everything hurt much more. I am not sure why, they weren’t doing anything wrong, but as soon as Megan came back to me I felt much more at ease.  This is the overwhelming power of a great doula, she helped me feel so supported. Her interactions with me did not feel like an intervention, it just felt like being lovingly held.

I spent some more time laboring on the toilet and then I remember Megan telling me we had a few options that we could try next.  She gave me three. Honestly I am not sure if I remember them correctly but I remember one very well. She told me that we could continue in the bathroom, go back into the bedroom and go onto the bed, or try out the birthing tub. I remember hearing that I could use the birthing tub as being THE most exciting news ever.  First of all, I didn’t know that it had been finished being filled up. Labor Land is weird, time feels totally different, things feel much longer or much shorter than they really are depending on what stage you are in. I also didn’t realize that I was far enough along to be able to go into the tub. Often midwives will encourage you to not go into the tub too early because the hot water can relax you and slow birth, unless you are at the point of no return...which I was, and I was excited!  

I looked at Megan and said “oh yes, the birthing tub I definitely want to try that out!”  She helped me to go from the bedroom down the stairs to where the tub was located. I had a contraction at the top of the stairs, and Megan turned off the light in the hallway to keep it nice and dark for me.  She asked me to sidestep down the stairs to help with positioning of baby, and while I was walking down, the birth recorder turned the light back on, trying to be helpful and be sure it was safe. I got to the bottom of the stairs and had another contraction.  I only had a bit more to go to get to the tub and I could not wait, I was really looking forward to it. We walked into the den area and when I tell you that every light in the damn place was on, well it was. I took a big step into the tub, throwing my leg over the side and forgoing the step stool they had lovingly placed for me.  I had another contraction standing up in the tub and I remember thinking I just wanted to submerge myself in the water but I couldn’t get down in time. In between contractions I was able to say “please turn off all of these lights.” It was awesome, I was able to advocate for myself in the middle of labor; something that completely escaped me with Luna’s birth.

I looked up from being draped over the tub and saw Adonis lighting the candles I had set up on my birthing alter.  It was such a beautiful and kind sight to see. He turned on the purple lights and dimmed everything else and I sunk into the water and it felt beautiful.  


Very shortly after being in the water my contractions changed.  All of the sudden this crazy sound came out of me from I don’t know where that sounded like a primal cave woman.   Whoa that felt different. I said, “I feel pushy!” I don’t think that’s proper terminology, but it came from my mouth. At some point during this time, I called out or responded to my midwife with “I don’t know what’s happening.”  I am not sure if this just came from me or was in response to a question. My midwife asked if it would be okay if she reached into the tub to feel and perhaps get a better idea of how the pushes were going. See that, consent.  She ASKED! Oh this birth was so much different, I was being respected and if I would have said no, guess what...she wouldn’t have done it.

At this point I was holding Megan’s hands with both of my hands and Adonis would pour water on my back through contractions.  My midwife would support my perineum and give me bio feedback on my pushes. I was supported in all spaces and was grunting and roaring through my contractions and pushes.  I do remember having one push that was incredibly strong and silent. Megan would give me such loving encouragement after pushes and let me know how great I was doing. In between the contractions I would close my eyes and just leave.  I looked up and saw one of my birth affirmations resting above the fireplace “birth is a safe and wonderful experience.” I smiled and went right back to it.

A really strong contraction was coming and as it started to build and Megan told me to let it build I protested, “No.”...”wait yes yes yes” and Megan said with me “yes yes yes.”  It was so nice to have someone see me and hold me in that space and talk with me. My midwife asked if I would like to reach in and feel my baby’s head. I was so excited, I could feel the baby going lower but I didn’t realize how close I was to meeting them!  I reached in the water and felt this soft almost bubble like head inside and was so motivated to keep going. I am not sure words can adequately describe what that feeling was like.

Triumphant Warrior Goddess perhaps.

After one particularly strong contraction I put my head down to rest on the tub and was seriously gone.  I was not in my body anymore I was in some space between here and there. I saw beautiful lights and movement and it was so calm and peaceful and I heard in the faint distance my midwife ask me a question and trust me, I heard it but I was like nope I am not coming back to this room right now.  My doula said “she’s resting right now.” I heard that too, but I still was not back in the room...I would be soon, for now I was riding on waves of color and light.

In my recollection it was exactly after this that the baby began to crown.  Listen though, Labor Land is weird. I thought I was pushing forever and Megan said it was like 7 pushes.  I am writing without viewing the video as that is the camera’s version of my experience. All of the times are based on phone records and not because I had any idea what time it was. Labor is so divine and amazing and time stops.  Hours can feel like minutes and minutes can feel much much longer.

Okay so crowing and the “ring of fire.”  I have read all about this and heard countless women’s stories from ecstatic birth to trauma filled hospital births, to pretty non eventful freebirths.  I might not even bother trying to explain it because their explanations did not match my experience. But, it was friggin crazy. CRAZY. I remember knowing I was safe, I knew it was unfolding as it was supposed to. I remember feeling my midwife support and maybe almost encircling around (or I just imagined this who knows she might have stayed at the perineum for support).  I think I made some crazy ass noises the whole time through the crowning process. Luna was holding her ears through contractions and then putting her hands on me supporting in between. The crowning was intense for her too because I was very vocal here. I remember again this feeling of being not of my body. I was part in my body and part not, like my biological self was splitting from my physiological self. Trippy shit, and also the most insane feeling ever to happen to me.  

After the babies head came through I said to Megan “that was fucking crazy.”  Then I said to the midwives, “okay so I just wait now right?” Meaning that I wait for the next contraction to push the shoulders out.  I knew the answer to that, I’m not even sure why I asked. The baby needs to do its little wiggly turn and then when your next contraction comes you push and voila a baby.  

This last push to get baby out felt so different than the other pushes.  I debriefed this with my doula Megan afterward because it almost felt like a pulling, like my midwife pulled the baby out...but she didn’t, it just felt that way.  It felt like going from a push to a pull and it was super strange. My midwife caught the baby and they we awkwardly passed him up through my legs I remember being careful because I wasn't sure how long my umbilical cord was.  Such a weird thing to worry about but it intuitively happened that way. I brought him up into my arms and immediately said “It’s a boy!” That’s all I could feel in right hand, was his boyhood. May 10th, 4:23 AM, a baby boy is born.  


Adonis was worried as he didn’t cry, but I knew he was fine right away.  He looked around, full head of hair, super skeptical. Luna joined us in the birthing tub and we hung out there a bit in pure bliss.  


After a while it was time to emerge from the tub and birth the placenta.  Getting out of the tub was much more awkward than hopping my pregnant body in.  We went over to the couch and I sat so awkwardly in a squat hanging off the edge of the sofa.  I had absolutely no cramping or contractions and no urges to birth the placenta. The midwives have a bit of a time limit on placenta emergence though, which I asked many questions about leading up to my birth.  I remember this part during my labor with Luna being terrible and I did not want a repeat.

My midwife was concerned about timing for the birthing of the placenta.  I remember looking up to my doula each time if I was asked if I had any cramping or urges because I had absolutely none.  The midwives decided to use traction, to help the placenta out and then did the “fundal massage.” The massage is essentially pushing very hard onto your stomach and it hurts like hell.  Megan told me to smell my baby during this time and I kept breathing in his little head as they pushed.

Luna had requested to cut the cord, and the midwives happily helped her.  They clamped near his body and assisted her in holding the scissors to cut.  This was her big moment to shine and she was super excited to be a part of this.


Next I could go upstairs and rest with the baby.  The midwives helped me get up the stairs and my bed was already set up with a bunch of pillows propped up for me to lean on and relax.  They asked me if I needed anything, and then went back downstairs allowing me to be alone to bond with him, which was so lovely. My doula checked in with me before leaving and made sure I had what I needed before she went down to speak with Adonis and see herself out.  

At least an hour passed before they would do any weighing or checks on me or assessments on the baby. When they came up they came to show me the placenta and Luna sat with me fascinated to learn all about this in person.  We had watched a lot of birthing videos and read books, but to see this magical organ in person is quite another thing. The sac that Leo was in was completely intact except for one little section, it was so magical to see.  

They weighed him and did some checks on his reflexes, breathing and heartbeat, checked my temperature and blood pressure and then checked me for tearing.  This baby was bigger than Luna, and yet I did not have tearing like I did with her. I don’t attribute this to being a second birth I actually think it is because I had a birth that was natural and could feel what I was doing.


The midwives tucked us into bed in the early morning, Luna snuggled up beside me and I held the baby in my arms.  Luna and Adonis fell asleep right away and I sat there just staring at my little baby, hearing the little snores of my family, and in absolute bliss.  I felt like I could go out and run a marathon holding a home birth banner, I was filled with rushes of love, happiness and an incredible creative power.


Learn about my doula here.

Learn about my home birth midwives here.

All photos by Adonis.

Simple Morning Hacks to Kick off the Day

Simple Morning Hacks to Kick off the Day

I noticed myself that when I have a really solid morning routine, the day is much much easier to handle.

Having a solid morning routine took me some time, and I have certainly had days where I have fallen off the course, or overslept and missed my routine entirely. The thing I have noticed though, is that when do miss aspects of my morning routine, I feel a little bit “off” all day, and when I follow my routine with fidelity, not much can throw me off.

One thing that I always do is set aside 32 ounces of deionized water with a half a lemon squeezed in it the night before. I put this water right on the counter in the bathroom so it is the first thing I see when I wake up.

I wake up, use my tongue scraper, brush my teeth, splash water on my face and down the water to rehydrate from the previous nights sleep.

Another really helpful morning ritual I have adopted over the years is that even before my feet hit the ground:

I take a moment to notice everything around me that I am grateful for. I lay in bed and run through a list of how lucky I am, that I have a roof over my head, that I am warm, that I have a kind hearted daughter snuggling beside me, that I am healthy and strong, and the list goes on. I take a moment to breath in and feel that gratitude wash over me before I set off on my day.

After taking care of my basic morning routine, I head downstairs to start water for tea, or sometimes coffee, and I write my morning pages. This is 30 minutes or 3 pages of stream of consciousness writing. The morning pages has changed my life, without exaggeration. Seriously, try it out. You don’t have to think about what you are writing or get precious with it, and you throw them out after you are done, it’s just basically a brain dump. Morning pages have made me more creative, more able to face challenges, more honest with myself and others, and way more ready to take on the day.

After morning pages, it’s time for some yoga and meditation. Even if I can just squeeze in a 5 minute guided meditation with an app like insight timer, that little moment can make a huge positive impact in my day.

Next I pack my lunch (either set up and ready from the night before), or I chop up all of my vegetables for a large salad to enjoy for lunch. When I am making my salad and the dressing, I am sure to be fully present and thankful for all of the food. Pro tip: I cut up cucumbers ahead of time and keep them in glass container, this cuts down on some prep time as well.

Notice I have still not gone on my phone, looked at emails, checked my text messages, or gone on social media. I do not do any of that until I am well into my commute to my job. I drive to the ferry listening to a podcast halfway through the drive, the first 20 minutes is silent thinking time, and then once I am on the ferry I may choose to check my messages or hop onto my email.

This simple act of setting aside time for myself, and not allowing anyone else and their potential problems, issues or needs take over my morning has been transformational. From beginning to end, my morning routine only takes about an hour, although I could always extend it longer with a long yoga practice or more time seated.

I hope you find these simple tips helpful, is there anything you do in the morning that helps you have an amazing day? Let me know in the comments below!


Read More

Guest Post on Success Academy Blog

This Teacher is Vegan, and Yes, She Has an Agenda

Danielle Pottberg 

 I stopped eating meat when I was 10 — the day I was eating a hamburger on a train, looked outside, and saw two cows on a bright green pasture. I had once biked up to those cows and touched their soft pink noses. I had named them Henry and Frank — and now I was eating a dead animal.

It would be my last. I have been a vegan ever since.

As an arts educator, I carefully infuse my philosophies around kindness, wellness, health, human rights, and advocacy into my art-making classes, and my “Philosophy of Food” elective was no exception. On Day 1, I told my Success Academy high school scholars, “I am vegan, and yes, I have an agenda. I want you to know where your food comes from, and for you to make educated choices about what you eat. I want you to know the science behind how your food affects your life, energy, and health, and I want you to leave empowered, knowing that you can make choices that will protect you, the planet, and its people. I want you to leave this course charged with the power that you can exercise your compassion for all living things through the simple, everyday acts of what you choose to consume .”

I want you to know the science behind how your food affects your life, energy, and health, and I want you to leave empowered, knowing that you can make choices that will protect you, the planet, and its people.

I decided to teach this class during our school’s Winter Opportunity Academy in December because many children are not fully informed about their food choices and don’t question what they eat. I believe that this lack of education around food is the reason so many Americans are overweight, unhealthy, and unhappy. Some children think the chicken in their storybook is different from the chicken on their plate. If children don’t know what they’re eating, how can they make informed decisions about what to put on their plate?

In class, I introduced students to scholarly research and documentary films that helped them understand the difference between organic and processed foods, the treatment of animals in factory farms, and the influence of the meat and dairy industry on the American diet. In one class, scholars studied cafeteria posters to understand how they were being tricked into believing that meat and dairy products are good for their health. My students learned that most dairy is produced not by farmers, but by corporations that operate large factory farms. They watched documentaries showing how animals are mistreated and fed unnatural diets in these horrifying places, and they contrasted these images with those that appear on commercials and billboards. Turns out that the idyllic image of a happy cow in an open pasture that you see on milk cartons is a lie. They discovered that farming, as we know it, is no longer a symbiotic relationship among animals, humans, and the earth, but a profit-first abuse of power by corporations that torture animals, create massive amounts of pollution (if you need a visual, Google “GoPro factory farm”), marginalize poor communities, and violate workers’ rights.

My job as an educator is not just to teach the amazing power of art-making and visual expression, but to ensure that when these young artists and scholars get into amazing colleges, they will know how to choose foods that will give them energy to pull the all-nighters, to write impressive dissertations, and to create those poignant works of art. My goal is for them to have healthy lifestyles that support their success. Without education around healthy food choices and knowledge of food industry practices, our students may leave college not just with a bachelor’s degree, but also with heart disease or diabetes. The question I repeatedly ask students is, “How much suffering will you tolerate for your food?”

For their final project, students created pamphlets, posters, and paintings to illustrate what they learned in my course. One of my students, Lexi Torres, emailed me her pamphlet early to get feedback, and later asked me in class, “Can we pass these out to other students to educate them as well?” Yes, Lexi, please do.

- See more at: http://www.successacademies.org/education-blog-post/this-teacher-is-vegan-and-yes-she-has-an-agenda/#sthash.FZ8SNSnk.dpuf