Wolfgang Martin Winter (Wolf) was born at home on February 25th at 3:23am. This is his birth story.
Content Note: Contains mention of loss and abortion. Video and images contain nudity.
To start the story of Wolfgang’s birth I have to rewind a bit. In May of 2017 Wolf’s big sister, Violet was born (you can read her birthday story here). When she was 8 months old we wanted to start trying to conceive again and managed to get pregnant in our first month of trying, in January 2018. We were thrilled!
Violet was a “rainbow baby”, a baby born after a loss, after we lost our first pregnancy between 5-6wks gestation. So I was extra nervous in the beginning of this new pregnancy. That said, I had more confidence that it would be a great pregnancy after having such an easy pregnancy and wonderful birth with Violet. Due to my age, we were advised with each pregnancy to do Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) and we did. I was mostly excited to have the sex confirmed since I had such a strong feeling it was a boy, which is was. When the call came in that there was a high probability of a chromosomal abnormality I felt completely blind-sided. We chose to do further testing and had a diagnosis confirmed that if our babe made it to term he would live a shortened life requiring ongoing medical intervention. After a lot of research and many hard discussions we agreed this was not the quality of life we would wish on our child and we felt the most loving decision was to end the pregnancy. He was one day shy of 14wks. It was, and still is, a heartbreaking loss.
We weren’t actively trying, nor trying to prevent pregnancy when we conceived Wolf the very next month, in May 2018. I mention all of this because it meant by the time Wolf was full term I had been pregnant for close to 14 months and it was exhausting. The pregnancy was much physically and emotionally harder than it was with Violet and I was so ready to birth this baby. I also found the closer I got to my due date the more anxiety I had about bringing him here safely and the more overwhelming it felt that after such a hard loss we were potentially about to have a healthy baby!
I had been saying for months I thought Wolf would come early. His guess date was March 1st, 2019. I didn’t think he’d make it much past 38wks. I even jokingly kept saying I thought he’d come on the full “Snow Moon” on February 19th. The one date I said he was absolutely not allowed to come was on my birthday, February 24th, but I also didn’t expect to still be pregnant by then. I had been doing acupuncture to coax him towards the exit starting at 36wks. In addition I was doing regular visits with the chiropractor and keeping up with prenatal yoga throughout the pregnancy. I started the simple home remedies like squatting, doing a regimen with the exercise ball, drinking red raspberry leaf tea and getting plenty of good loving from the hubby. I tried walking but the closer I got to the guess date the icier it was outside so I just hoped I was walking enough chasing my toddler at home.
I was having practice waves nightly from 36wks on. I really enjoyed them because I knew my baby was coming soon! The week leading up to the full moon the waves were stronger and had turned into stretches of prodromal birthing waves. We even had one false alarm where I thought it was my birthing time as waves were coming stronger and increased with movement. But, they never really grew much in intensity and after about 10 hours they had stopped. From then on I was less excited when they came and left, even though I could tell they were helping change my cervix so I knew I was making progress. I even lost my mucus plug in my 37th week, with bloody show, but no waves.
The moon came and left. We were due for a couple of small snow storms that week and I thought maybe he’d come with the storms, nope. I tried relaxing more, and tried wondering less if today would be the day (easier said than done). Then it was finally my birthday, and I gave up. I said again that he was not allowed to be born that day, and that I felt by then he was going to stay in there until college. All of my guesses for his arrival had passed. I had a fantastic birthday. My husband and toddler took me out for brunch. I spent a glorious 90 minutes in a salt deprivation tank (a godsend during pregnancy) and enjoyed really bonding with my baby and getting relief from my aching hips. That evening my husband and I went out for a giant steak dinner and I came home to a beautiful cake waiting for me. It was lovely, and no sign of baby.
Well, it was technically the next day when at 12:15am on 2/25 I woke up to what I assumed were more prodromal waves. They were giving me lower back pain but I tried to sleep through them at first. The baby had been waffling between ROT (right-occiput transverse) and ROA (right-occiput anterior) for weeks and despite my best efforts I had not convinced him to turn. While my midwife kept encouraging me that both were fine positions to start with for birthing time, the Spinning Babies website had me nervous by saying both were potential positions for a posterior baby, which could cause back labor. Most of my practice waves were thankfully in my abdomen, but the ones I was getting in my back were bothering me so I went downstairs to spend some time on the ball.
Within a few minutes the waves were back in my abdomen, and I was surprised they were increasing in intensity. My husband, Tim, came to find me and I told him not to expect anything but that I’d try to time them. They were about 4-5 mins apart but not consistent. We went back to bed so I could start a hypnosis track and they spaced out to 6-7 mins apart but continued to feel more intense. Tim suggested I at least let the midwife know. I called both her and the photographer. The midwife asked me to tell her when they were consistently 5 mins apart. She said usually she’d want to know they were like that for an hour but since she suspected I would birth quickly I didn’t have to wait that long.
Almost immediately I wanted to get up and as soon as I did the waves jumped to every 2.5-3 mins and continued to get more intense. I asked Tim to start setting up the tub. I spent time in the bathroom. Had some diarrhea, took a quick shower (hoping to not use up the hot water), and frequently had to stop to breath through the waves. I was listening to my Birthing Day Affirmations track and was getting excited that this was the real deal. It was only 30 minutes later that I called the midwife back and she said she’d head over, as did the photographer.
From then on things really sped up. I set up candles in the room and had a small snack, having to take frequent breaks to breath and sway through waves, staying relaxed and saying, “open, open open”. Soon I gave up any other preparations and got on my knees with my upper body on the exercise ball, moving with my waves as they continued to crescendo. The photographer silently entered the house and I was barely aware of her presence as I continued with the ball, bouncing, rolling, swaying. Tim was stuck filling the tub but continued to check in on me and offered me water or would take a moment to squeeze my shoulder and give my a cue word of “relax”.
I had stopped timing the waves. They were strong and close together and all I knew is at this point this was 100% my birthing time so who cared about timing. I didn’t know it, but this was likely when I was in transformation. It was as intense as it was with Violet, but because it came on so fast I didn’t believe it was transformation and I felt sometimes I had trouble focusing on my hypnosis because things felt so intense. I would still force myself to go inwards, and I used my voice to talk to the baby and my body and calm myself down. I could not be still during any of my waves, only in between, when I would force my eyes open at times to look at my affirmations around the room and relax.
I very quickly needed to get off the ball and lie on the couch, wanting to give my hips and back a rest. While it was nice to be there between waves, it was too hard to be there during them. I don’t believe I was on the couch for more than a few waves before I asked, almost begged, if the tub was ready. It wasn’t nearly full, but the water was warm. I threw off my dress and got in and it felt so good. This was about when the midwives quietly arrived. They started getting supplies in order.
I had felt a little pushy before I got in the tub, and assumed it was too soon. But, now that I was in the warm water and released my hips and back a bit more the pushing waves came on strong. It was so unlike how it was with Violet. Similar to her birth, the pushing waves were involuntary, but unlike her birth I was very in sync with them. In her birth I felt like a passenger as the waves pushed me around. This time I was very much in the driver’s seat. I didn’t have to push hard, I just had to let my body do the hard work while I consistently bore down and sent my energy/breath downwards. It was an odd juxtaposition both feeling in control while also feeling the pushing waves were so strong and sometimes one came after another without a break. This was hard because it felt like I was on a runaway train at times. This baby was coming, and I wanted him out, but I also wanted breaks in between and they weren’t always there. I even yelled at one point, “give me a break!”. My midwife was crouched down in front of me now and locked eyes with me and softly connected letting me know I was doing great. I immediately calmed back down, felt my power, and committed to riding the waves no matter what.
Wolfgang was coming fast, and from here on I used that connection to internally roar him down. I twisted and turned just letting my body move however it wanted in the water. I heard my Pushing track playing in the background and kept envisioning him on a slide easily sliding down and out. I checked and his head was just a centimeter from my perineum. The midwife asked to check his heartbeat after the next wave, but then half of his head was out and she told me to just keep going. At this point I was in a squatting/hands forward position in the tub and I put my hands to my perineum and felt just how large his head was. I was in that ring-of-fire moment and it all felt doable except I felt stinging by my clitoris when I pushed so I slowed way down. I gave counter pressure to the perineum and gave gentle pushes between the waves. The midwife encouraged me to push harder but I told her it felt like my clit was going to pop off and since I really liked that part of my body I was going to go slow. Everyone laughed. The midwife told me it would not pop off and I was fine to push but I didn’t mind going slowly and feeling myself gently stretch open.
His head was out and the midwife checked to see if the cord was around his neck, which it was not. She encouraged me to take one more big push and I watched his body shoot out into the water beneath me. I instinctually scooped him up and brought him to my chest and I was so thrilled that he was here!! I felt overjoyed and simultaneously awake, alert and fully present to his birth. This boy I had waited for and fought for was here in my arms and I couldn’t be happier or prouder.
He didn’t cry immediately so I was rubbing his back and the midwives quickly pointed out that he was breathing and was already red within seconds of being in my arms. They were checking his heart rate as he took his first giant cry. I held him, in awe, as we waited for the cord to stop pulsing and then I proudly cut his cord in one go. Tim held him as I birthed the placenta and we headed to the couch to bond and nurse. The midwife checked me and I was thrilled that I only had a very small “superficial cut” at the top of the perineum (where I had felt the stinging) and I didn’t need stitches!
About an hour later we were upstairs in bed and the midwife thoroughly checked Wolf out. I was not surprised when he weighed in at 10lbs and was 22” long, though I was surprised that his head was a whopping 14.75” in circumference! He is a big boy and I am so glad I took that time to slow down when he was crowning!! The whole birth was over in 3 hours and 13 minutes, with 23 minutes of pushing time. Wolf may have taken his time prepping my body for birth, but once he made his appearance it was fast and wild!
I said with Violet’s birth that in all honesty it was not painful. I only felt pressure, except for when I had stitches afterwards. I will admit I had discomfort at times with Wolf’s birth because it was so speedy and intense. But the discomfort was all bearable and the pushing was so empowering. Hypnosis was once again a major help, as was having a phenomenal support team in my midwives and husband. It was exactly how Wolf was meant to be born and I would not have changed a thing.
Resources that helped me achieve two unmedicated births:
The Business of Being Born
Why Not Home?
Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin & The Farm Midwives
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
Scroll down for full image gallery. Photos by Shirley Anne Photography.