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confessions of a vegan yogini mama: {a crazy homebirth story}

October 26, 2015

This is my Birth Story. There’s nothing crazy about it, I just wanted you to get curious and click on the post. Now you’re stuck with me! Hehe.

I’m so honoured to share it with an open heart … and trust that if there’s anything in this content that ruffles your feathers, you will be kind and forgiving.

I realize it doesn’t get ANY more personal than this, and I’m choosing to share it on my wedding blog anyway. As all our Brides already know, I wear my heart on my sleeve… and with this post, I hope to contribute to the celebration of sisterhood, motherhood, and the divine feminine, which we ALL embody.

home birth stories

From the ancient times of cave women, it’s through stories that we learnt, survived, and thrived as a species – we witnessed births of babies & birth of mamas. I didn’t grow up that way. In my late twenties and happily pregnant for the first time, I realized how embarrassingly little I knew about pregnancy and childbirth – despite having doctors for parents, many great women in my life, and a BA degree. We all know how childbirth is portrayed on television: a woman’s water breaks, she starts screaming in pain, everyone is freaking out, she gets rushed to the hospital, where doctors ‘save’ her and the baby. This just didn’t seem right to me, and I became determined to fill in the gap. I started doing research and became obsessed with getting my hands on every book / documentary / teaching on natural childbirth I could find. It was AMAZING. The more I read, the more confident I felt about the way I wanted to bring our child into this world. At this point I must also mention how grateful I am for my amazing husband Rob – he eagerly read all the same books and watched all the same documentaries alongside me, supporting me every step of the way. Our lengthy discussions gave me strength and reassurance – I can do this.pregnancy inspiration

Deep down in my heart I must have always known I wanted a home birth. Not sure where the determination came from, but I wanted to honour this blessed rite of passage in the ‘best’ way I knew how – so it was time for me to find out what ‘best’ meant, for ME, and for this baby. What I wanted was to have an empowered natural gentle unmedicated birth, free of unnecessary medical interventions.

Some people said I was inspiring & brave, many others said I was crazy, or worse yet, that I was stupid and reckless to plan a home birth. What if something went wrong?! The purpose of this sharing is NOT to justify my choices, but to simply  1) share my unique personal story; and 2) encourage others to make INFORMED choices – because birth MATTERS.pregnant belly painting

SETTING THE STORY STRAIGHT:

* Planning this baby was fun. Rob & I had been together for 5 years, we’d done a whole lot of traveling & partying (with three Burning Man festivals under our belt, hehe), and we’d worked like mad to establish our island life and photography company. People laughed when we shared our precise plan to get knocked up in early winter and have the baby in summer 2015, because well, anything can happen, and besides, most people try for months. I guess we were lucky. One fateful day in mid-October good wine tasted gross to me. Simultaneously, I acquired a new compulsion that we had to unplug our wifi router at night. The adventure had begun!

* Rob & I are Canadians living in Dominican Republic, a country with one of the highest (after Brazil) c-section rates in the world, which is currently at 87%. I know, devastating and alarming. Oh, and the breastfeeding rate is below 5%! Don’t even get me started.

* So I peed on a stick last October, and before Rob & I got too excited, we made an appointment at a local hospital (Cabarete, DR) for blood work. Everything looked great … but: after a short conversation with their only OBGYN, I wanted to punch him in the face. This man would not be getting anywhere near me!! My heart was set on finding a kickass midwife & if possible, a doula too.

* We looked into flying a midwife over to the island from Canada or the States (or even Costa Rica), but then, nothing short of a miracle: we found out that the most incredible midwife we could’ve prayed for, Leslie Hawkins, was living just 20 minutes from our house! Through the grapevine (of other expat mamas in town) we learnt that she’s been a midwife for 24 years, has run birthing centres in Afghanistan and Haiti and was now establishing her very own, Wise Mountain Retreat & Birthing Center (aka The Ranch) here in Dominican Republic. Leslie has helped bring 2000+ babies earthside (Zion would be her 2008th). She was kind, humble, vastly knowledgeable, and she was going to be around in July, when our cub was due. When she said yes to being our midwife, I cried sweet tears of joy. Shortly afterwards, we also found out that a fabulous massage therapist here in Cabarete, Michelle (also an amazing woman and a proud mama of two), is a doula. BOOYA! We had our perfect team.pregnancy inspiration

*** (I feel compelled to mention here: a professional midwife is medically trained to do everything an OBGYN can, short of surgery. So, they don’t just show up to the birth with a couple of towels and aromatherapy candles – they can handle most complications for low-risk pregnancies and can recognize when a mother is in need of a hospitalization, so an appropriate transfer is made. A doula’s job is to support the labouring woman; the midwife mainly focuses on the baby, and doula – on the mama).

* Feeling pretty isolated without a community here, I had immersed myself in connecting with the tribe of mamas on social media – yeah Facebook & Instagram!! I loved the support, the ‘likes,’ the sharing of stories… but there was also an ugly side: an air of competitiveness and judgement. Home birth vs hospital birth, vaginal vs c-section, medicated vs unmedicated birth, breastfeeding vs formula, vaccinate vs not to vaccinate. Everyone seemed to have an opinion, and some expressed theirs quite strongly. I got a lot of unsolicited advice when I was pregnant, and it didn’t feel good. (Like one stranger told me if I drink coconut water, I’m going to have a miscarriage. WTF?!) The point I want to stress is, I truly believe that all in all, it doesn’t matter what kind of a birth you choose (AND what kind of a birth you end up having), as long as you’re following your intuition and making conscious choices that are respected by your closest people and by your childbirth team. Sometimes things don’t turn out as we’d hoped or planned, and we must make peace with that, because we all do the best we can. We are all Goddesses, Warriors, Nurturers, Sustainers… Motherhood transcends time and cultural barriers; we should recognize one another as a global sisterhood. As for our babies: more than anything else, need our LOVE to thrive. Love doesn’t come from breast or bottle, it comes from our hearts.boho maternity photos

Endless gratitude to our dear friend and fellow photographer Karina Jensen for taking my favourite pictures ever! So glad we did this. I’m just about 34 weeks here and I never felt more radiant in my entire life. unique maternity photos

* I knew I had to keep myself in tip top shape – not only because you’re supposed to, but because we had a very intense season of weddings ahead. I’d started saying ‘no’ to inquiries more than a year in advance and our last wedding fell on June 20th, at exactly 37 weeks. No problem, I thought. With a ‘due date’ in mid-July, we were golden. I would rock that wedding AND we would have a few weeks to work on all those weddings, relax by the pool, and get into the baby-having mindset. Boy, was I WRONG!!

namaste happy baby onesie

BIRTH STORY

It was June 19th and we were making the 5-hour drive across the island from Cabarete (charming surf town we call home) to Punta Cana (mecca of beach weddings) one last time, for ONE LAST wedding of our insanely busy season. My lower back ached and I couldn’t really nap, so Rob & I got chatting about … the baby, what else. I was explaining to him why it annoyed me when people wanted to know the baby’s exact due date: there’s such a range of ‘normal’ … some babies are ready earlier than others, as far as 4-5 WEEKS apart. Our ‘guess date’ was July 11th, and we were actually joking about the baby arriving on July 23rd – only because that would make him a Leo instead of a Cancer, haha. No, we really didn’t care when the baby came – we just anticipated at least 3 weeks of well-deserved ‘mat leave’ to get our shit together, based solely on an arbitrary statistic that most first babies come a week or so ’late.’dominican republic homebirth

Back at our Punta Cana condo, Rob got all the photo gear ready for the next day and went to bed; while I felt like staying up and doing a bit more computer work. Sitting for too long was uncomfortable, but for some reason I felt the urge to do as much editing & answer as many emails as was humanly possible. Around 11 pm I realized amniotic fluid was leaking out of me, at a pretty alarming rate. I didn’t want to be one of ’those’ women – waking up my husband and calling my midwife for no reason, freaking out over ‘false’ labour. After all, I was barely 37 weeks along! Looking up answers on Google scared the crap out of me. With tears in my eyes and a towel between my legs, it was time to tell Rob & call Leslie.

‘Let’s wait and see,’ she assured calmly. I was to drink lots of water to replace the lost fluid and remain on bedrest from this point on. If contractions didn’t start by morning, perhaps Rob could still shoot the wedding. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! My mind was exploding. Thank heavens our amazing associate photographer Tamara was on standby to help us and take over if necessary … but seriously? This baby couldn’t frigging wait another DAY? I fought back the tears. Was the baby okay? What if the baby wasn’t ready?! I wasn’t ready!!!   

The toughest part in that moment was writing a message to my already-stressed Bride. She was going to be in great hands regardless, but I wasn’t going to be there for her. It broke my heart. Well, I better have this baby soon, or I’m going to feel like an idiot NOT showing up to shoot her wedding!! … and with those thoughts, I started rushing right away. (In case you’re not familiar with the lingo: this term is preferred to ‘having contractions’ because in birth, we want everything to soften and open, and ‘contractions’ are associated with tightening and tensing up).

Rob & I tried to sleep. In the dark, I reached for my phone and downloaded one of those ‘labour’ apps to help me time rushes. Just like every other night, I put in earbuds to listen to my Hypnobirthing meditations; this time I was hanging on to EVERY word. Those contractions: 10 minutes apart, about a minute long; for hours. I had slipped into an unusual kind of dreamland. 5 am and not a wink of sleep, I decided to wake up my man; except that he hadn’t slept either – turns out I was moving and moaning more than I thought I had.cabarete midwife

Waddling to the car at the break of dawn, clutching a pillow, cell phone & a cold Perrier, I was still in denial. Knowing that we had a rocky 5-hour drive ahead of us, I still wanted to believe my labour would halt; that this was just a practice run.

Labouring in the car was absolute hell. All I wanted to do was moan, roar, and swivel my hips on all fours!! Reclining, strapped into the seat, was pretty much the opposite of that. I focused on breathing and timing my rushes, which were now 5-7 minutes apart, lasting up to 2 minutes. I still had my guided Hypnobirthing meditations, which in retrospect, helped tremendously. I remember thinking how ironic it was that I was all about having a home birth because I didn’t want to be restricted and strapped to a fetal monitor – and here I was, strapped and restricted by a fucking seat belt. Nice, at least now I could relate! Hitting potholes during a rush added a whole other dimension to the sensations, which by this point I could confidently call ‘pain.’

No road trip is complete without a roadside pee (and sometimes even a poo)! With the baby’s head pushing even more on my bladder, we had to have several of these. More amniotic fluid gushing out, and there was that mucous plug. Holy shit, this was really happening!! Knowing that were were still hours from home (and therefore from our midwife & doula) made it really difficult for me to surrender to labour. I didn’t want to think about all those “opening like a flower” birthing affirmations.

Rob & I dreamt of creating a sacred space (inspired by all the stories from Ina May Gaskin’s books & the Orgasmic Birth documentary), where we could connect, touch, kiss, and work through the rushes together. We would work up to the finale gradually. There would be a birthing pool, dim lights, perfect music, homemade perogies & banana bread, a little sage to burn, and a whole bunch of other stuff that would never make it into this story. Because, as John Lennon brilliantly put it, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

natural childbirth

By the time we got home, Leslie judged me to be 6 cm dilated already. The rushes were starting to get less bearable. I wanted and needed Rob’s full attention, but he was busy getting a tarp for our bed, getting towels, getting me water… I struggled to find labouring positions that felt good and kept getting the urge to pull down on something with my full force to get through the rushes. The curtains most certainly wouldn’t hold up, Rob was too sweaty & slippery (or maybe that was me)?! So I clutched the bedsheets, which Rob & Michelle kept scrambling to straighten out. I think I pulled at my dreadlocks a lot too!!

cabarete homebirth

What a relief it was to finally be able to move (and be out of that damn car)!!! Over the next 4 hours, I would try everything – labouring on all fours, labouring in the shower, labouring on the toilet, standing & leaning, laying on my side, squatting… I really did wish we would’ve had time to set up that fancy birthing tub, and I wished I had a birthing ball. I also wished the room wasn’t so damn bright, that I would’ve made the perfect playlist… and Rob wished I would’ve cut my nails, haha. But that’s just life, isn’t it – the lesson was clear, we don’t always get what we want! The work was cut out for me, plain and simple. I just had to do the work (they don’t call it ‘labour’ for nothing!), without all the ‘fancy’ stuff.

natural childbirth

I remember resting between rushes, covered in cold sweat, trying to remember any of those beautiful hypnobirthing affirmations I’d listened to a thousand times. None came to mind except a pretty hilarious one shared by a friend on Instagram … which was ‘like a bar of soap.’  🙂

Any concept of time had evaporated. I came up for air, then got thrashed by another big wave. Surrender, surrender, surrender. I didn’t truly understand what it meant to surrender until I actually heard my self say, ‘I’m tired, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t do this.’ It’s embarrassing to admit, but I felt absolutely defeated. Couldn’t someone take over for me while I took a little nap?

Truthfully, I remember thinking, ‘if we were at a hospital right now and someone offered me drugs, I don’t know if I’d have it in me to say no…’

Then another wave, and my midwife said ‘reach down and feel the baby’s head.’ We were so close, and I was totally spent. It felt like I was going to split in two, but at this point, I didn’t really give a care. It took a couple of spoonfuls of honey, a bunch of roaring screams, and 5 more pushes for Zion’s perfect pink little Self to finally slip right out. 2:12 pm June 20th, a transformational journey of a little more than 14 hours.

The most exquisite pain of my life, and the most ecstatic relief!!

cabarete homebirth

I’m not even sure how Rob managed to get this incredible capture of Zion halfway between two worlds!!

I looked down and saw … BALLS!!! What a surprise, for some reason Rob & I were both sure it would be a girl. Who cares, what a blessing!! The name rolled off my tongue, our precious baby boy Zion.

home birth stories

I’m so grateful for my wonderful and highly intuitive midwife, who gently coached me during labour. Thanks to her, I didn’t tear at all, despite Zion’s odd position! Not only did he have one hand up by his face as he was emerging, he also had asynclilism, meaning his position was asymmetrical in relation to my pelvis; with his head tipped towards one shoulder. This usually means a longer and potentially more difficult labour. When all was said and done, Leslie casually added, ‘if it wasn’t for his position, no doubt you would’ve had him in the car.’ 

empowered birth stories

I must confess, we didn’t start falling in love right away, Zion and I. He didn’t stare meaningfully into my face with his old-soul eyes, nor did I start floating on psychedelic oxytocin clouds as he was placed on my chest. The emotions ran wild, sure, but I didn’t expect such discomfort delivering the placenta, as several more powerful contractions rocked me.

Hey, I was a glorious mess. I was born as a Mother. We did it! I did it. Aho.

birth without fear

First latch… and another contraction, as my shocked uterus responded to the cocktail of those wonderful birth hormones. home birth stories

POSTPARTUM

The story doesn’t just end there. I’m no expert, but I want to scream this from the rooftops: Postpartum is a very vulnerable (physically and emotionally) time and postpartum care should be a priority for all women!! Very few get the care and attention they deserve. I was very fortunate (still am!) to be pampered by my amazing husband, who mindfully catered to my every need.

Despite having a natural, complication-free birth, I still needed help getting out of bed and going to the bathroom for several days.

Rob brought me nutritious meals & snacks that I could eat with one hand, and I ate sitting up in bed.

I didn’t know it was normal to bleed so much. I didn’t know there would be moments I’d be paralyzed with fear: who was this little alien in my bed and how on earth was I entrusted with keeping him alive?!

During those tender, raw, and often painful hours, I thought about all the brave strong women who were healing from even more severe postpartum damage, both physical and psychological. Women who had to reach for a glass of water or maneuver breastfeeding around their c-section scars. And was anyone bringing them water at all? A girlfriend recently shared that her husband only had 3 days off work when their baby girl arrived. She’d had an emergency c-section … and was expected to take care of herself, baby & the household almost immediately. There’s a recipe for postpartum depression, if I’ve seen one.

placenta lotus birth

You must be wondering what’s that bloody organ in a tupperware container beside me? Why, the Placenta, of course!!

By now the knowledge of the benefits of delayed clamping of the umbilical cord are widespread (or so I’d like to believe). Rob & I went an extra step, to a half-Lotus birth. A full Lotus birth is when the baby remains attached to the placenta until the cord dries and naturally falls away from the bellybutton. This takes 3 – 10 days. The placenta is usually rinsed, salted & wrapped (if you’d like to know more, I recommend Robin Lim’s amazing book ‘Placenta: The Forgotten Chakra’). I wanted to dehydrate mine and take it as a postpartum supplement, so we opted for the half-Lotus (keeping the baby attached to the placenta for 5-6 hours). It’s still hugely beneficial for the baby and was a much gentler separation. Rob carefully clamped & cut the cord while Zion was nursing … and he still cried. Of course they feel it!

While I ‘babymooned’ with our munchkin upstairs, Rob slaved away in the kitchen, cleaning and preparing the placenta for dehydration (again, if you’re interested in the process, consult the book I mentioned above). I took small parts of it raw (all vegan readers gasp in unison!!!) for the first 4 days blended in smoothies and the rest, once dehydrated in our fancy Excalibur & ground in a spice grinder, I’m taking small pinches of daily. Skeptics will be quick to say there is no proof that ingesting your placenta helps regulate the postpartum hormonal rollercoaster … but I beg to differ, along with countless other women who agree beyond a shadow of doubt – it works, it absolutely makes a difference. (Side note: placenta encapsulation is becoming more popular and available as a service, look into it! We just didn’t have this available in our corner of the world). If you’re grossed out by this now … trust me, you might change your mind! I did. And if this is still not your jam, why not plant a beautiful tree to honour your child’s birth and bury the placenta with the roots? No matter what culture you come from, this is a beautiful offering, which certainly beats having this miraculous organ discarded as medical waste.

And if you don’t think we’re weird enough already, let me tell you what we’re doing with the umbilical cord: Rob dried it in a shape of a circle so that we can make a dreamcatcher to hang over Zion’s bed. There.

home birth inspiration

First bath. pregnancy inspiration

Zion & I had to figure out breastfeeding, because even though it’s the most beautiful and natural thing in the world, it’s really hard. My midwife & doula were a godsend. They encouraged me almost every day that first week, helping me figure out that breastfeeding is NOT nipple-feeding … and if the latch was painful, we had to break suction and try again. It’s been three weeks and breastfeeding still hurts at first, but it’s nothing I can’t breathe through. It’s nothing compared to a gazillion stories I’ve heard, of cracked bleeding nipples and women dripping tears onto their babes during feedings. Postpartum care is so important. Asking for help is so important. 

I also didn’t realize my baby was absolutely fine with only that little bit of colostrum my boobies were producing, and it was okay that my milk didn’t come in till day 4. It was heartbreaking to see Zi drop in weight – he was 6 lbs 2 oz at birth and dropped to about 5.5 lbs before starting to gain again. It was such a relief to learn that was normal, and it wasn’t uncommon for breastfed babies to take up to 2 weeks to return to birth weight. The point is, we’re not alone if it’s a rocky start – and it’s so worth it.

HERE is the best article on breastfeeding I’ve found to date, by the way…

… and this 3-minute spoken word piece Embarrassed by Hollie McNish is SO GOOD.

breastfeeding advice

A few words from Rob: 

‘Wow, what a wild ride, and I’m not just talking about the drive. I remember feeling fear for about one minute as Katya told me, teary eyed, that her water broke. Fear turned to disbelief, “this isn’t supposed to happen like this… we have another month to get ready! This whole time I’ve been planning to start getting ready the day after the wedding.” But that wasn’t helping anyone, so I quickly turned into Captain Positive. Soon after I was genuinely excited that we would meet our baby today

Driving was crazy. Of course we have a broken window with a taped up garbage bag on it (from a recent break-in) for the 5 hour long labour drive, the last hour and a half of which would be on rough roads. It’s really loud in the car, so Katya and I are both wearing headphones and every 10 minutes or so I can hear her moaning over my earbuds and the loud-ass car! 

Once we got home it really hit me how unprepared we were. Not just with the lack of a sacred space, birthing pool, playlists, snacks and candles, but we hadn’t practiced positions, movements, encouragements and affirmations. In short, I had no idea what to do. 

Step 1: get Katya to our bedroom; step 2: set up the room with the little stuff we do have ready; step 3: set up the camera gear; step 4: get some sort of soft music on, and then… step 5: stand around like an idiot with a sheepish look on your face?

So I did the best I could, massaging her lower back when she asked for it, getting her and the ladies water, taking pictures when I thought it was appropriate, trying and mostly failing (and eventually giving up as there was too much else to do) at getting any good video footage. All the while being super bummed out that my wife is in a lot of pain and there’s nothing I can do about it other than repeat the same thing the midwife and the doula are saying, which was surprisingly little. I know every woman and every labour is different and we (mostly mom) have to use our intuition and let the birth happen without any interventions but I think both Katya and I were expecting a little more suggestions and gentle steering from our birth team, especially when she was getting discouraged. Looking back it’s really obvious that I should have been a lot more of a cheerleader, verbally encouraging her and telling her how great she was doing… and wearing a hot little miniskirt with pompoms wouldn’t have hurt!!!

Then he was out, I said “he’s got balls!” and only my surprise at that exclamation made me realize how sure I was we were having a girl. I had a chuckle, shed a tear (either happy for my new life or mourning my old one, I don’t know yet) and we moved Mama onto the bed, a cute-slimy-tiny-pink-alien on her tummy.

So we didn’t have the birth we planned for, not even close. It was not a spiritual experience for me, but more of a biological one. It was psychological too (first births apparently mess with your head), but mostly just very biological, with fluids and organs (ok only one organ but have you ever seen a placenta, it’s like a meat jellyfish!) … crying and screaming and so much sweating! All in all I think we did alright. Katya rocked it, with no tearing and so far showing no adverse postpartum symptoms, and I survived without breaking anything or freaking out! Next time though, oh baby, just wait and see how we rock that one! Actually, the only thing I’m sure of for our next birth is that we’re going to make grand plans again; but be better prepared to completely ignore them… and I’m already shopping for my cheerleader outfit!’

postpartum care inspiration

My yoga practice changed dramatically as the pregnancy progressed, but no matter how weak or full I felt, it always helped alleviate whatever physical discomfort I was feeling … and of course brought me to a much more harmonious inner state. It was my saving grace.

It’s been three weeks since Zion’s birth and I’m having to invite even more self-love into my gentle practice. There’s a ton of loose nuts & bolts! It feels so good to be able to fold in half again, compress my tummy in cobra, locust, and detoxifying twists … at the same time, I’m deeply aware of how much healing still needs to happen.

postnatal yoga

If you don’t have a thriving home practice and would like to incorporate one into your life, I highly recommend Yogaglo.com. It’s absolutely amazing!!! My all-time fave teacher there is Jo Tastula. Her prenatal & postnatal classes are incredible. So are Stephanie Snyder’s. But ANY conscious, connected movement and breathing you do is beneficial. Just remember to be kind to yourself.

postpartum care yoga

For me, this image sums up the term ‘babymoon’ beautifully. Rob & I worked so hard to be able to take several months off TOGETHER so that we can ease into  into parenthood, stay connected, and enjoy the selfless work of caring for this beautiful soul who has chosen us. normalize breastfeeding

P.S. Oh! Oh! One more super important thing about postpartum ‘babymooning’ … limit your visitors for the first few weeks! And if anyone IS coming over, they better be bringing delicious homemade food / fresh flowers for your ‘cave’ & only staying for, like, 5 minutes (unless they are offering to vacuum and rub your feet). Be blunt!! I loved being naked ALL DAY (except for the granny panties & loads of nipple cream) so that Zi & I could have skin-to-skin tummy time. It just feels so right. It regulates the little nugget’s skin temperature and makes them feel loved. 

RESOURCES:

I know, there are a TON of amazing books out there… and this is not my entire preggo / childbirth / babybook library either, JUST my absolute favourite titles (and two more titles are missing from the photo below: Birthing from Within & Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method; those are on loan to pregnant Goddess friends).

Early in my pregnancy I decided I wanted to be involved in Birthing Arts somehow, and now (update 6 months after Zion’s birth) … I’m enrolled in a Midwifery Assistant course with my amazing midwife here in Dominican Republic!

… If you can think of some great reads that I missed, I’d love to hear from you!

Actually, I’d LOVE to hear from you in general … you know, it’s pretty nerve-wracking to pour your heart out this way and I’m holding my breath this post will be helpful to some kindred sisters (and their partners) out there!! pregnancy books inspiration

THE KIND MAMA by Alicia Silverstone:

This is an absolute must for anyone expecting, especially for vegan mamas. I loved this book so much and didn’t find it controversial at all. Why do people love to hate on celebrities?! I applaud Alicia for bringing more awareness to the subjects of co-sleeping, breastfeeding, raising children on a plant-based diet, etc … and generally thinking for yourself and following your intuition instead of blindly going along with the ‘mainstream.’ There are some very unique recipes in the book too!

MAMA GLOW by Latham Thomas (@glowmaven on IG):

From another fabulous vegan mama. Full guide, from trying to conceive to postpartum wisdom. I absolutely loved her cheeky, no-bullshit approach and priceless tips. Again, you absolutely don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan… I’m going to say – read it especially if you’re not! We might convert you! Hehe.

SPIRITUAL MIDWIFERY by Ina May Gaskin:

Probably my most beloved text among these… It’s a collection of stories, an introduction to the art of midwifery, and an intimate look at the birth culture in a Tennessee community called ‘The Farm’ (2100+ natural births, 1.4% c-section rate)

INA MAY’S GUIDE TO CHILDBIRTH by Ina May Gaskin: 

Wait, maybe this is my favourite!! This woman is one of the world’s most influential midwives, and for a good reason. She empowers women to trust the ancient wisdom of their bodies and shares the innumerable benefits and joys of natural childbirth. This book is AMAZING.

MAMA, BARE by Kristen Hedges mama bare kristen hedges

This book is seriously extraordinary. Every pregnant woman (AND her partner!!!) NEEDS this beautiful and honest collection of postpartum confessions of real women. In these pages you will find the most raw, intimate thoughts and feelings that will grip your soul and deepen your understanding of what it means to become a mother. If you’re expecting, these stories will gently place you in a sacred circle of supportive sisters. These stories will move you, surprise you, and inspire you. (Check out Kristen’s blog and if you’re an instagrammer, go follow her @happysleepyfolks)

BOUNTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL, BLISSFUL by Gurmukh:

This one is unlike any other pregnancy book. The author is a sought-after Kundalini yoga teacher with more than 30 years teaching experience, including prenatal yoga. There are some fantastic and accessible meditations, my favourite was the squatting one (and in the end, that’s how Zion came out!)

HYPNOBIRTHING MEDITATIONS by Kathryn Clark:

I’ve tried several, and this one is by far the most pleasant. Personally, I found her voice soothing and not at all annoying! You can download individual albums or the full set on iTunes. Seriously, $ WELL-SPENT!! My favourite ones were Visualizing Your Perfect Birth + Birthing Affirmations, but they are ALL fantastic. Very, very much recommend!

‘BUSINESS OF BEING BORN’ DOCUMENTARY (click on the link for full feature free on youtube): 

Explains how the American health care system approaches childbirth. Totally outrageous and a must-see! So, so excellent. And if you want more, go see the additional ‘Business of Being Born’ series on Netflix.com; there are several great episodes, which include interviews with Ina May Gaskin and a whole episode on VBAC’s (Vaginal Birth After Cesarian).

ORGASMIC BIRTH’ DOCUMENTARY: (recently renamed ORGANIC BIRTH)  – watch THIS TRAILER!!! 

If you’re going to take ONE thing away from this sharing – let it be watching this documentary!!! I will even send you the file if you email me, I promise. This film is absolutely amazing, Rob & I watched it several times. Movie night with your partner!!! It’s wonderful especially if you’re feeling any fear or anxiety around birth, it will change everything. So good!

 LACTATION LINK with Lindsey Shipley (@lactationlink on IG):

Lindsey is brilliant. She is a Registered Nurse and a board certified Lactation Consultant.

Go to her website to find fantastic articles & accessible online classes. I thought I knew all there was to know and still learned a ton from Leslie’s wisdom.

I really love following her tips in Instagram as well!

lactation link

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THANK YOU for letting me share from the most intimate nooks & crannies of my being. Looking forward to your comments!! For more heart-ful tidbits of our personal journey, please follow me on IG   @nurturingnova  (especially if you want that homemade perogies recipe!)

 

Rob, Zion-the-baby-Lion & I are sending you so much LOVE.

katya nova birth story

 

ZION THE BABY LION AT 5 MONTHS (our fave baby sling Sakura Bloom @lovesakurabloom)sakura bloomstarting solids vegan babyzionthebabylion

… Zion is just about 6 months now and we’re starting to think about solid foods, which is pretty exciting! Rob & I have the intention to raise him vegan and are doing a lot of pertinent research to keep him well-nourished and healthy. FOLLOW OUR JOURNEY ON INSTAGRAM @nurturingnova.

 

Comments

comments

  1. Heather

    July 12th, 2015 at 16:16

    Absolutely beautiful! Thank you for sharing your amazing story. Sending love to you, Rob, and adorable baby ZIon! Xo

  2. Rebecca

    July 12th, 2015 at 16:49

    Such a beautiful story and beautiful photos. I’m doing hypnobirthing again (second baby) and lost my affirmations cd (wasn’t crazy about the first time around anyhow.) What affirmations did you use? Are there meditation tracks you could recommend for labor/labor prep?

    Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story! You and your family are gorgeous!! You’ve just got me pumped for labor (will be 37 weeks tomorrow) I’m excited for it all! And I had a 36 hour, drug free, home birth the first time around and crave childbirth again! My husband felt the exact same way yours did while I was birthing too, he had no idea what he should be doing and we DID practice affirmations and took hypnobirthing classes together, In the end all I remember were the tears flowing down his face when he caught our son (I barely recall him sitting in the corner of the room playing a violent video game on his iPad :-/ ) you are superwoman for laboring in the car for hours! I could not imagine that. Enjoy every moment with your beautiful son, it seems that you are doing just that. Also… What kind of homemade perogies??

  3. jan

    July 12th, 2015 at 18:08

    Hi Katya, congratulations on becoming a Mummy! Zion is just perfect. I follow you on Instagram and was looking forward to your birth story! I’m currently 39 weeks prego and following you has been such a lovely support. Your birth story is truly inspiring. I am of course very nervous about the labour so any reading on birth helps, especially for us first time Mums. Thank you so much for sharing your story. My birth plan is very similar to yours also my post partum plans.
    I’m in awe of your courage and zen throughout the whole labour. You did such an amazing job you should be so proud of yourself. I hope I can get through it as naturally as you did! Like a pro! 😉

    Wishing all the best to you and your beautiful family! Xx

    Jan
    Ireland

  4. Martine Mochaud

    July 12th, 2015 at 19:19

    Wow Fantastic

  5. Andrea

    July 12th, 2015 at 19:47

    Katya, you are a goddess! Thank you for the bottom of my heart for sharing your story. We absolutely need more women to share these honest, open and vulnerable moments that every mother experiences in her own way.
    I am honoured to have read this and felt so much resonance from my own pregnancy journey and birth experience. I birthed my daughter but I without doubt experienced my own personal birth, into a mother, a doula, a birth photographer and with a newfound understanding for the divine feminine.

    Thank you as well for opening your soul and sharing your post-partum experience so far. One year in, still breastfeeding, still not sleeping through the night, and still appreciating the sweet surrender to the uncontrollable.

    And I love Rob’s perspective and words about how “prepared” you’ll both be for your next birth 😛 I am in that early joy of having just recently found out we are expecting again (after having a major holy fuck is this really happening again moment!), and feeling so blessed to be strengthened by the women openly sharing their stories and their honesty.

    Much (Canadian) love to you and your beautiful family

  6. rayleen

    July 12th, 2015 at 20:09

    Thank you for sharing you beautiful journey to motherhood!

  7. Melyssa

    July 12th, 2015 at 20:30

    Thank you SO much for sharing this. I’m not pregnant or planning to have children for quite awhile, but for some reason, the thought of pregnancy and child-birth is one of my biggest fears, to the point that I can bring myself to tears if I think too much about it. I think I’ve heard and watched so many things that portray it in a negative way that my mind has been engulfed by worry.

    For that reason, I was SO happy when I stumbled upon your Instagram a couple months ago and saw that you were living a natural, loving, and confident pregnancy. I’ve been so inspired by your posts, especially this one, ever since. I really appreciate you sharing your story. I love that you remind us how real the experience is — that despite all the plans you made, nature had other ones, and in a lot of ways they sucked! But despite the bumps in the road, you still had a healthy, successful birth with so much positivity and love looking forward.

    Thank you so much for sharing this, it really affected me in a meaningful way. Lots of love to you and your family. <3

  8. Nikki Noo Bailey

    July 12th, 2015 at 20:35

    KATYA & ROB!!
    I read this absolutely incredible story today on my birthday. . I am so in awe of you both. As in individuals, as a couple. .and now as parents to that divine little human u brought earthside! To say how much i love following your journey doesn’t seem enough. Your love for life and your story inspires me to no end & makes me smile bliss fully ever time i see & read ur posts. So so grateful i was lucky enough to meet you & i hope one day we meet again so i can meet little Zion. Katya you are truly one of theeee most beautiful women i have ever met. Inside & out. This story had me clinged to the edge of my seat.. Rob your amazing!!
    From my heart to yours. . Xxxx

  9. Kat

    July 12th, 2015 at 21:21

    <3

  10. Naomi Laliberté

    July 12th, 2015 at 22:19

    Katya, thank you so much for sharing this very intimate, real, inspiring and illuminating passage of you life. Props and respect. I think I met you at burning man and I follow you on instagram as I admire your vision through your lense and share your passion for yoga, travel and photography. I am absolutely moved by your story and admire your courageous choices.I shed a tear looking at the pictures.So beautiful.
    I am TERRIFIED of giving birth and you have now implanted a more positive vision of the whole process with your contagious strenght and courage, pureness.

    Merci!Thank you..

  11. Sierra

    July 13th, 2015 at 05:40

    Katya & Rob!!!
    Amazing, I kind of wish I was able to read this before I gave birth to my daughter (almost 10 months ago!)but oh well!! You guys did it! Such a great read!! Totally telling all of my pregnant friends to read this!! Ahhhmazing!

  12. Amy

    July 13th, 2015 at 07:15

    wow! thank you Katya for sharing this amazing story and Rob did an amazing job with the birthing photos!!! Zion is one lucky little boy, he has some amazing parents!!!! XOXOXOXOX

  13. Jackie

    July 13th, 2015 at 08:26

    I found myself getting lost in your birth story last night, holding on to every word and for what was going to happen next. Your birth story is so unique and beautiful, and even better, your little guy is absolutly the cutest. Welcome to motherhood/ fatherhood. Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your life with us. That takes some serious courage to open up in that way. I’m thankful you did. I have only been following you for a short period of time, but I’m so happy I found you and your beautiful family. I hope you soak up every sweet moment, and breathe deeply in the challenging ones. Thank you again for sharing this.

  14. Jenny oreilly

    July 13th, 2015 at 14:41

    Congratulations!! Wonderful birth story!! You should be so proud of yourself. I had a home birth too and it also didn’t go as planned 🙂 he was a week early so we were also caught unprepared! It’s such a wonderful time in your life these early days soak them up and rest up. Xxxxx

  15. Claudia de la Torre

    July 13th, 2015 at 17:36

    I am 36 years old, I don’t even have a boyfriend but your blog has inspired me to maybe one day hopefully become a mother. Thank you so much for sharing such an intimate and beautiful story. I have a sister that had four kids and never enjoyed being pregnant nor the birthing process due to bad doctors and bad nurses but again your story gives me hope and the much needed knowledge and information I’ve been looking for.
    I wish your beautiful little tribe all the love in the world and I know Zion will grow up to be an amazing human being.
    Love and happiness always❤️

  16. CG

    July 13th, 2015 at 22:23

    Thank you!! Maybe one day my partner and I will decide to bring new life to this world, maybe not. Who knows what life really has planned. I appreciate your sharing as this part of being a mum is so secretive (and thus scary) in my society. I work with animals and have seen/assisted tons of new lives coming into this world, but never having the ability to say “hey cow, how are you really feeling about this?” (Not sure if it would apply anyways, but we’re all mums right?). So thank you for sharin the human experience, and one that aligns with what I feel like should be inside the black box of human birthing. 🙂

  17. Camille

    July 14th, 2015 at 04:54

    Congratulations on your beautiful bundle of light! It was an honor to come across your story and at such a perfect time. When my partner and I started on this journey I had the sudden inclination to start reading about natural births. I have never known anyone to deliver at home and had a very traumatic hospital birth when I came earth side, yet I knew I wanted a natural birth. In my immediate circle i find very little information or support. It wasn’t until I stumbled across your instagram page that bits and pieces began to fall into place. What a blessing this media platform can be! Your story lifted me out of my fear into a comfortable embrace of strength and hope. You are truly an awakened soul spreading your truth and joy. I sent this to my partner and we both marveled at your little family. I am still in awe of such a beautiful and tangible example of letting go when faced with the universes plan for you. Your are an incredible family. Thank you for your gift.

  18. Amanda

    July 14th, 2015 at 06:24

    Katya & Rob –

    Your story is beautiful, inspiring, and glorious! I hope my husband and I can pull off a birth similar to this (when we finally get knocked up, that is!).

    Thanks for being so brave and writing this story.

  19. Kenia

    July 15th, 2015 at 12:18

    At a lost for words… so much to say… no clue where to start. Stunning. Simply prefectly imprefect. The way its intended to be. I hope to have this self love, self knowledge, and self support… from both myself and my partner. Were working on this. Thank you Katya Rob and baby Z. Welcome to our world.

  20. Sara De Sierra

    July 15th, 2015 at 20:51

    Woow!!

    What can I say…? I’m so happy that even having nothing ready and not expecting Zion to come, for three more weeks, You actually had the type of birth that you wanted and you prepare for. I’m totally agree that a lot of families don’t search a little bit about different options that maybe fit your personal birth in to something more like “you” (more like your own style and needs). I did it for me and my babies and of course I feel now that I would change some decisions back in the day but in that moment it felt the right choices for me, no matter what others out of German and me thought.

    It is so magical to relive those moments when you explain your feelings and fears that mummies have during the process, so real, so powerful, raw and magic… Not to mention the spectacular shots that Rob took of you and baby Zion… touch my heart and get my eyes watery… I wish I have those kind of pictures of us…

    I like the idea of eating the placenta in the way you did, little by little and dry, I didn’t know any body that I personally know who did it.

    I also like the idea of the dreams catcher with the cord, I’ve never heard anything like that before. We donated for the cells.

    I think it’s a beautiful blog and for sure you are going to help some mothers to make their own decisions with their births.

    I’m really happy that you and Zion are great and recovering in such a peaceful harmony together…

    Thank you very much for sharing, I really enjoyed it! I love beautiful stories 😉 specially if those have babies involved and happen in Bali Hai)))

    Lots of love to your new family… Your real adventure in live it just begin!

    XXOO

    Sara

  21. Lily Nunez-Payano

    July 18th, 2015 at 08:10

    This post is so raw and inspirational. The images captured, helped display the strength you had throughout it all. Reading about your journey, the research, and you both being so honest about all your thoughts, really puts things into perspective. THANK YOU for always sharing to inspire.

    xoxo
    Lily

  22. Yulissa

    July 18th, 2015 at 13:26

    This story is amazing, you are truly an inspiration. I feel like I’ve known you for years. You’ve made me see birth through different eyes. Best wishes to you and your beautiful family.

    XOXOXOX

    Yuli

  23. Lawrence

    July 19th, 2015 at 11:29

    What a beautiful story! You’re a natural raconteur.

    Keep inspiring, my friend. xo

  24. Kelly

    December 21st, 2015 at 11:48

    Just an absolute beautiful couple !! I’ve been following you for almost a year and watching your baby journey just helped me go through mine as well. Unfortunatly I had to have my 2 c section too many obstacles to jump here in Cape Coral fl finding someone who’d want to trust my body in being able to deliver my second naturally and well I kind of let them stear me into the fear. But my baby is here and very healthy and beautiful and that’s all that matters now. Encapsulated my placenta and let me tell you it is gods gift ! My recuperation was a breeze and I was like Supermom over here with a toddler and a newborn. I must say my breastfeeding journey was also amazing and couldn’t have had it any other way. Thank you for posting journey and I shed tears of joy with such beautiful pictures. I joke to my husband that we will be retiring in Costa Rica and live like Katya and Rob haha it’s for real tho not a joke now it’s my goal !! Best wishes and what enjoy that precious baby Zion

  25. Flor

    June 26th, 2016 at 19:32

    Katya…. It’s taken me days to process your post… So beautiful.. Truthful.. And full of love!!!!! I thank you for sharing! Yes things don’t go as planned as this momma wanted to try for a natural birth but after 24 hrs in labor and no progress I got an epidural! Better luck next time I guess! This is beautiful in every way and I feel much better having read this !! Zion is lucky to have such a great momma :). Peace and love ????

  26. Kirsty May

    August 17th, 2016 at 20:32

    Wow, what a beautiful story. I am very humbled to have come across your Instagram and now your birthing story. I’m a very new happy Mumma to be. Currently only 10 weeks and I have no idea what to expect but my heart is filled with happiness and very blessed emotions. Reading your story and the beautiful words from Rob, made me smile, shead a tear and get even more excited for the new adventure my soul partner and I are about to encounter. Thank you for all the resources you shared also. Can’t wait to get my hands on a few of these books and most certainly purchase those hypnobirthing affirmations 🙂

    Sending lots of love and magic to you and your beautiful little family.

    P.s if you do still have that file for that documentary and you really don’t mind sending the file, I would be humbled to be able to watch it. Only if you can 🙂 xx

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