Being the Portal

We danced for just over 26 hours, from one morning to the next, through the sunshine of a beautiful spring day and the darkness of the long night in between, to the next morning’s spring rains…when you finally entered this realm. 

The Call to Birth

Siggi was in the shower early Saturday morning, and it hit me, waking me up with eyes wide open. 6:05 am. The first, very powerful surge. Something that I could liken to feeling normal and nothing one moment (sound asleep, in peace) and then going from 0 to 10, being hit with the strongest sensation to poop! My eyes popped open and I did a little quick assessment, like “did I eat something last night…do I have to poop?” The sensation last a few long seconds, and so I got up, went to the bathroom, feeling it out… did I have to poop? Nope. I got ready to go to the market…having this deep knowing that maybe, just maybe, this was it. 

Saturday Market Day. What Plan? 

As we got in the car, about 20 minutes later, again, whoosh…another very strong sensation hit me. Again, I thought to myself, maybe it’s just poop? We got to the market, another glorious and fresh Saturday morning. Siggi went to his first shift at Maritime Gourmet Mushrooms and I headed to the washroom. I sat on the toilet a while…feeling it out again, but nothing. So I went to Siggi to start our quick market shop. Ironically, none of the vendors we needed were there, so I took this as a sign as well. There were just a couple more things we needed in preparation for the baby, but it wasn’t absolutely necessary at the moment. 

My plan for the day was to go from the Seaport Market to a plant sale (haha) in Dartmouth and then home to make protein balls (for energy during the labour haha).  I had imagined riding the ferry with some plants. Nope. Well, we got coffees and I filled my tumbler, thinking wow we didn’t sleep much last night and now Siggi has to work, so of course, a Saturday morning coffee. (That coffee sat in my tumbler for almost a week after that!) I had another surge of intensity approximately 20 minutes after that second one. So, Siggi went down to work and I sat at the top of the stairs of the Seaport Market. Breathing. Attempting to sip my coffee and be, feel, act normal and not squish my face like I had to poop…but no, I couldn’t do it. Coffee was definitely not happening right now. I contemplated staying or going. I actually still wanted to go to the plant sale! At about 8am-ish, I texted Siggi and said I’d be heading home. I called a cab and waddled down the stairs to say bye. His awesome boss, totally understood that he might have to leave on his first day. My cab arrived and luckily I was in between contractions, so the bumpy ride was not that unpleasant. I got home and quickly put herbs to steep on the stove. Herbs to soak my pads for after birth. And I think I made tea for myself. 

I went upstairs, took off my dress and bra, put on comfy clothes and adorned myself with the earrings, rings and necklace that I wanted to wear during birth. I later found my hoops a bit annoying to keep on as I hung over the side of the birth pool. So those were the only things I ended up removing. 

At about 9ish, I called for Siggi to come home. He came home by 9:30am and we called Kate. I felt so bad that she was out of the city and we had to call her back! She heard my moans and said she’d be on her way. The surges were minutes apart. Sometimes 3 minutes, sometimes 5 or 10 minutes. I assumed we’d be done by the time she got here! Oh goddess was I wrong! 

Alison, my doula was the first to arrive and then Adelaide (our incredible birth photographer). I remember Alison asking we if had straws… and well, Siggi and I don’t use straws, but Adelaide brought us some. Those straws were a serious lifesaver for our entire postpartum experience! Sometimes you just never know the value of the little things until you’re in a new experience! 

Kate arrived around noon. By then Alison had me on our exercise ball and some waters had released. Kate offered herbal tinctures and arnica homeopathy to help with the intensity of the sensations. They kept me hydrated and cool. Siggi and Alison had set up the birth pool and Siggi started filling it with water for me. I went in and out of the pool several times to offer different positions to the baby. I remember trying to sit on the toilet as well but feeling the absence of something to pull down on from overhead. I then knew why women would need that sort of cosmic counterweight. The thought that kept crossing my mind was “How do women do this more than once?”

I never knew I could conjure up so much physical strength to last a marathon as such. I know I am not the long-distance runner type, so this entire journey to birth was a surprise to me. I felt like I was an athlete, being hydrated and soaked with cold towels and wiped liked a boxer at the corner of the ring, or like a sumo wrestler, squatting and engaged against their opponent (but for me, bearing down against my birth keepers). My blessed birth team of Alison, Kate, Siggi and Adelaide certainly played an essential role in keeping me nourished, hydrated and conscious to do my part to breathe and guide my baby down the portal and into this realm. 

Oh wow, I have never felt SO strong than I have during those 26 hours (glad I did those daily squats…because I sure needed that muscle power). My muscles got weak and fatigued, but I somehow found strength in my thighs and hips, core and arms to keep going, and keep going. What a dance – of control, of passion and bearing witness to my true, raw essence, of stripping all the layers and just being and giving everything to bring my baby safely through the portal. I allowed myself to moan, groan, roar, whimper, whisper…from a soft volume to as loud as I’ve ever heard myself. 

Life is Still Happening

Outside (given that it was a gorgeous Saturday), our landlord was outside, doing work around the house…painting the side of the house…our exterior wall…! I heard the loud, rhythmic thuds of the paint roller going up and down against the siding…so we kindly asked them to stop since I was in labour! They had and have been so extremely loving throughout all of this! I did wonder if they could hear me as we had to open the windows at times, but they said they couldn’t hear a thing next door! Somewhat relieving now, but in many moments, I had no choice but to let the lioness or mama bear come through, growling at the intense discomfort of my body opening or roaring at the frustration that the baby wasn’t descending after many, many hours of breathwork, riding the waves, and sleeplessness. Allowing these primal sounds to come through, were the only way I think I could cope or be present with the physical  sensations. 

Randomly I would think about if Kate, Alison and Adelaide knew that there was coffee…and I almost asked Siggi to go make them some coffee because I felt bad that this was taking longer than I thought! I would think about how all around me, outside our bedroom, that life was continuing on. Neighbours gardening, our landlords doing house maintenance, people walking about. Life goes on. And birth is just as a part of it. It is a major event, but it is a natural part of life nonetheless. So many thoughts floated through my head between non-thoughts (emptiness and just breath when those surges came). The Call to Birth: it came unexpectedly – so I felt that I didn’t have the mental time to prepare for the labour with all the tools I had prepared for labour… suddenly the surges and the intensity were all that I could sense, rather than stay grounded and use my breathwork; I know Alison and Kate were there to centre me, hold space and physically support me. It’s like everything else went out the door and I was surrendering to the pain, the discomfort and reality that this was happening, and happening now. 

Sometime in the late afternoon I think (who knows about time when you’re riding those waves), I was holding onto Kate and Alison and in between my surges, I heard a deep growl… I turned around to see Siggi passed out, bent over backwards on the edge of the daybed…snoring! I laughed inside but asked them to wake him up! It was so distracting! We hadn’t slept much on Friday night and we woke early on Saturday morning to go to the market to pick up a few things for the baby, but also Siggi had his first shift at the market for Gourmet Mushroom; so I get that he was tired…. but still! No snoring! FFS! Kate gladly chucked a pillow at him, popping him awake! This was about all the humour we had during this ride. 

As the light lessened and night fell… I still felt scared and didn’t want to be alone. It was late and Kate asked that I take some time to be alone and go within. I remember insisting on not being left alone, so Siggi stayed with me. He even said, “What can I do? Only you can do this.” But really, I just needed to hold his hand. To feel that reassurance that someone was there with me. I knew he was tired and could sense his frustration. I was tired and the surges had slowed a bit, so I remember have quick moments of sleep in between, but then, intense waves. I remember the beeswax candle sitting in front of the birth pool… the flame became so bright it was distracting…so I asked for it to be moved to a new spot in the room. 

Throughout the night I remember watching the numbers on the clock change…1:00am..hearing our landlords’ son get home. 4:00am…their side door opened, and it didn’t seem that someone was coming in, but leaving. I became worried that they could hear me and had to leave the house. Later we learned that they were taking their younger son to the airport. Then, seeing the sunlight reappear and illuminate the room again. Feelings of disappointment and defeat amongst exhaustion swirled around me. 

Very early on Sunday morning, doubt began to cross my mind (just momentarily, just this once and then it passed). Doubts if I could actually birth this baby, if my body would actually open up, or if my structure was actually too small to allow the baby to descend.  All these thoughts and fears placed by every person and their story prior to this moment. In all the fatigue of my muscles, I thought, “there is no way I have the energy to be transferred to the hospital right now, I can’t imagine that! I can barely hold myself up or walk!” I remember whimpering and calling out to the baby, “Please come, Mama is tired.” My birth keepers were incredible at holding space for me to stay present and focused on guiding my breath and believing in myself that I could do this. I felt the top of his head so many times, sometimes closer, sometimes farther! This was the only external intervention, and by myself only! I don’t think it really dawned on me all the moments that could have been interpreted as dangerous to me or baby…in my mind, I felt that if I had been in the hospital, I wouldn’t have been able to take my time with it. What I did feel, is that this dance, this looong dance, was very normal and natural, so I think deep down, it gave me a sense of peace amidst the intense surges. The raw power of our nature should never be interrupted. I am thankful for the patience of my birth keepers, the patience of my baby and the courage that surfaced within me. 

Throughout the night and into Sunday morning, I remember thinking about all the wimym, across space time, who have birthed; my close friends who inspired me with their wild power, wimyn in all situations of life, those who had birthed multiple babies, those who had birthed in fields, during wartime, and in so many different environments, and I kept telling myself, “Audrey, you can do this! You are those wimyn. They’ve done it! You can do it! You have the same what-it-takes as they have!” From the birth pool, I remember looking up at the top of our bookshelf and seeing a framed picture of Siggi’s grandmother Alice – I remember thinking that she too, had many children and had been the wise matriarch in her family. I channelled all of their wild strength. Those moments were my altar, my meditation and invitation to live out the power within. The gift we have to be the portal. 

The Ring(s) of Fire

I’m saying it as it is. I had only read about the ring of fire in birthing books and stories of wimyn, but why do women not speak about this important detail when they talk about birth? Finally in the last hour or so before my baby birthed, my body began to expand and I felt intense opening. I definitely felt the burning sensation called the “ring of fire.”  I knew then that we were getting closer. However, I experienced three levels of that ring of fire as I kept expanding. The first was intense enough, and I had no idea that it was going to get more and more intense! I looked deep into Alison’s eyes as a focal point. At that point, my surges came in two waves back to back…as they had throughout most of the labour but this time faster and more intense. The first part of the surge, I was in conscious control of putting energy into my muscles, guiding my breath down and then the second felt like the top of my abdomen had a mind of it’s own, not allowing me to catch a breath in between the two to give energy to that second one! This felt like a sympathetic response, the body taking over, an automatic response, that I had no control over. I really just had to let it happen and extend that exhale! So intense! This is really the absolute surrender we must allow and trust in the wisdom of our body to do what it knows!

Maybe some time after 8:00am, I finally felt his head crown, and this time it felt different than when it was higher in the birth canal. Instead of feeling smooth and rounded, it felt wrinkled but still smooth. At this point, I asked Siggi to enter the pool, I felt like I needed someone to lean back against for extra leverage. I had wanted Siggi to come into the pool sooner, but the long hours had worn on him and the others (I don’t blame them! it was a long, exhausting day and night) and I could feel at times he was frustrated – so it didn’t feel energetically right to call him in (although I do wonder, had I called him in sooner, if Milo would have descended and birthed sooner, differently). 

Once Siggi joined me in the pool, he sat behind me and felt for Milo’s head – and suddenly I saw him smile so incredibly big (like he finally believed me that I was doing the work to birth him! Eye roll). He was suddenly so ecstatic and happy and like he gained an energy and became so encouraging. Moments later, Milo crowned more and his head came out, I felt a gentle popping sensation and suddenly I felt hair! And the water of the pool brushing against his soft hairs and soft crown – it was an incredible feeling! I think my hands and heart will never forget that feeling – they have been imprinted in my physical touch memory. We were all so happy! Although I was still in intense, stretched pain, I felt myself smile for the first time in twenty hours. Can you imagine not smiling for that long! 

Once his head was out, I still felt myself opening and couldn’t believe this was all happening! Siggi, Alison and Kate were smiling and continued encouraging me to use the surges to guide his upper body out. Suddenly, another pop and his right arm and shoulder were out. The popping sensation is so unique! Also brings a natural relief from the discomfort. They encouraged me to use one last surge to guide the rest of him out – with the lasts of my strength and love, I used that last surge to birth the rest of his soft, surprisingly long body! He shot out into the birth pool in front of me. For just a moment, I was still. In disbelief or something! I heard Kate’s voice: “Audrey catch your baby.” And there he was. I held him close. His long body, noticing his very large hands and feet! Siggi was the first to announce that we have a son! The velvety softness that cloaked his sweet little body. The umbilical cord was gently wrapped around one shoulder and arm. As I lifted him up I forgot that he was still attached to me! Kate told me to suck his nose with my own mouth (as mothers always have).  Then we held him in awe. 

Milo, our precious child of the universe, you arrived safely Earthside at 8:40am, on a rainy Sunday morning. 

Eyes wide open, squishy face and cone-headed, you took your first breaths and cried out Earthside so that your presence was known. 

This is my baby’s story as much as it is my own. He initiated me into a wild, fierce, mama. He set the path for me to demonstrate my strength! I hope that one day, he can tell me of his journey from his perspective. Patience, I’ve learned is a gift that our babies offer us unconditionally from the moment they are in our wombs. He gave me the gift of patience and let me embrace and overcome whatever it was that I needed to release in order for him to continue his descent and entrance to the world. 

Those Precious Moments After Birth

I think we remained in the birth pool for about 10 minutes and then Kate suggested that we get out so I could birth my placenta. The water was cooling but I would have loved to stay in the waters a little longer. The comfort of the water, the comfort of being able to catch my breath. I remember Alison and Kate feeding me bits of orange… after that incredible marathon, the piece of orange was the absolute, most delicious thing I ever tasted. The sweetness, and the texture of the flesh. Just had so much sensation to every bit of it. I didn’t accept more than a few bites of orange and water throughout the whole labour. I felt nauseous and didn’t want to throw up. This may have contributed to my exhaustion (or maybe the nature of birth is exhausting no matter what? I think I’ll accept more food next time). Well, I didn’t think it would happen, because I just stood up with the assistance of Alison and Siggi, holding our new baby. All my RMT training wasn’t present in my head, obviously…and even though I took my time, the next thing I knew Kate was calling my name and I was on the floor. I had fainted as I stepped out the pool. Kate caught our precious babe as Siggi and Alison guided me to the floor. They immediately helped me to hydrate and Kate gently insisted that I birth my placenta. With her wise power, we tugged a little and guided out my placenta. It did take some work. Like a second birth. I remember feeling it’s lovely squishy and thick texture. Its fullness. This immense, incredible organ that I grew, that was the connection between my son and I, that nourished him, that was his life force. And now, in my hands. Along with it came a large blood clot (as Kate had suspected). I fainted again. They laid me down and covered me with warm blankets. Kate, experienced with these time sensitive possible scenarios, immediately took some of my placenta and made me a smoothie to help the initiate the recovery.  As I drank, Siggi and Alison did a cord burning ceremony. I would have liked to be more conscious and at ease to be able to do it myself, but we cannot control birth and all the beauty it presents us. I just allowed myself to be. To be nourished. To know that everything was being taken care of. 

Our first day

I’m sharing this because it’s just as important. Birth isn’t just about the anticipation of the labour to start, and then the birth itself. The birth of a mama is just as slow and painful with new experiences in every. single. moment. We are born, as new beings. So every moment, is new, because we are no longer the same. 

Our blessed birth team left around 12:30pm, after cleaning up and ensuring that we felt supported and ok to be alone. Alison called on my dear sister Mariel to be with us for the afternoon. 

I actually felt ok that they were going. I was most worried for their own exhaustion. Alison and Kate exerted so much energy for me to pass through this journey. Their immense physical strength, allowing me to bear down…their holding space, creating a protective, sacred space for our baby to enter this realm. I could only imagine their exhaustion based on my bearing down on them, and I knew that they needed nourishment and rest. I certainly felt a flood of emotions and tears as they came to kiss me bye. I was deeply grateful for them standing at my side as I crossed into motherhood. 

I know every birth experience is indifferent. This was my home birth experience. I wouldn’t change it for another scenario. Everything happened just as it needed to. I am just thankful we were supported by such wise and experienced birth keepers. This was my first time experiencing birth. Unmedicated and unassisted. I gave myself patience and went with the flow. I think in a hospital setting for example, there would/could have been other/different challenges to overcome.

Mariel left around 7:30pm. She was with us for over four hours. Four, precious, intense hours – witnessing me in my most vulnerable state…and fainting a second time in the washroom. (I learned after that, to move slowly and close to the floor until my iron levels were recovered.) How blessed I am to have such a friend be there in those fragile first hours. She massaged my sore and exhausted neck and shoulders, just knew exactly where to place her hands to provide support to lift me and just her presence made us feel so comforted. 

And then, we were three

And then, we were just three. I fell into and out of sleep, but I remember waking to Siggi trying to put a diaper on Milo. We were preparing to sleep for the night and so we wanted to put a diaper. I realized that he had never put a diaper on in his life, and probably never intended to until we decided to have a child. So, in my half sleepiness, I instructed him how to put on a diaper. We hadn’t had a chance to go over diapers haha! Although we prepared well, there were still a few things that just didn’t get done before the birth, and I just had to accept that! Just like the plant sale and protein balls! Oh well! 

Since the carpet was still drying, we couldn’t open the daybed. So Siggi made a little bed on the floor. Milo whimpered throughout the night. I was in and out of sleep so I only heard him through my sleep, but we definitely all passed out really hard. 

We slept soundly. Surreally. Baby Milo, transforming with each breath. He had made quite the journey as well. His cone-shaped head was surely causing him some discomfort as the soft bones were shifting. What a time. Life. Life just knows what to do. We just need to accept, surrender with love, and allow it to do. What beauty in this perfection of our being. 

And there it is, our first day as a sacred family. 

Thanks for reading if you made it this far. Thanks for witnessing and receiving this story of Milo’s birth and my own as his mama.

Love & Gratitude,


Our Birth Team:
Birth Keeper: Kate Varsava, Midwitch Doula: Alison Capstick Birth Photographer: Adelaide Rodgers

and deep gratitude to all of our Halifax Tribe that showed up with support those first few days…Wiebke Kungl for taking our birth laundry…& Anke Kungl…just knowing what a freshly post-partum mama needs to recover: dark chocolate, liquid iron, and nutrient dense, whole foods! Shannie Kiely…for taking pictures of our first week together. My loving naturopath and friend, Dr. Priya Joshi, ND who got me herbs for my healing tissues. Savayda at The Bloom Institute for her potent herbal medicine and always supporting the women of our community.

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