What is unhindered birth and why would you choose it? - [ Freebirth.com ]
How do you learn more? - [ Unhinderedliving.com ]
Isn't VBAC unsafe? - [ VBAC & Scar Integrity ]
Are there books on the subject? - [ Amazon.com ]

Unassisted Childbirth - Laura Kaplan Shanley
The Power of Pleasurable Childbirth - Laurie Annis Morgan
Unassisted Childbirth, an act of love - Lynn M. Griesemer ... and many more.

(This story has been posted on other sites, which is why it is written for an audience who doesn't know me).

Around 5am I woke up to a few mild cramps. The anticipation more than the sensation kept me awake until Curtis woke up two hours later to leave for work. They weren't regular and were pretty mild. Every half hour or so I'd have one that hurt and then they would all but stop. I told Curtis to go to work anyway; if they actually turned into something I'd call him in a few hours.
I got up and plodded around the house a little bit, and the more I moved the more they spread out and eventually just felt like mild gas pains. I ate some breakfast, talked with my friend LC who was staying at the house with her seven month old girl, and by 9:30am I was much too tired to stay awake any longer. I asked LC if she would watch my three year old, Tempest, for me and went back for a nap.
I slept soundly for three hours. When I got up I felt a hundred percent better and the on-and-off cramps had long stopped. I frequently got these kinds of cramps, although usually only in the evening, and dismissed them as merely a return of the painful braxton hicks.
Earlier that day I had written to a few close friends that I thought the cramps might turn into something and now I felt silly for jumping the gun seeing as they'd completely stopped. I was on my way to change my message to "false alarm" but made a stop at the bathroom before going to the computer. When I undressed I saw that I'd lost my mucous plug in a very big (and gross) way. I checked my cervix; it was around 4cm dilated with a bulging bag. I've never had a bulging bag before so I had no idea what it was at first. The baby was still facing outward at this point so I gave into the fact that I'd be having my third posterior labour! I guess when you don't know the difference it's not that bad.

Because I had made it up to 5cm before I ever even started labour with my second child, I didn't count this so quickly as being "in labour", but did consider the idea that it would be within the next few days.
LC and I decided to go for a walk down to the corner store for some drinks. I'm pretty sure she offered the walk to try and perk my contractions back up again, she had that look in her eye when she grabbed her coat. I was there for her labour so she knew the tricks.

We were gone about half an hour. While I walked I got mild, tiny squeezes every three few or so that really weren't that regular nor painful. I only had to stop walking twice, but not so much for pain as just for the intensity of the squeeze - they felt a little like someone taking both hands to the side of my belly and pushing it inward. These felt different from my day-to-day cramping but also didn't feel quite like real labour.
When I came home and sat down they spaced out to ten-to-fourteen minutes and I barely felt them, but I had already resolved to call my friend Amber (who would be photographing) and Curtis just the same. Even if it wasn't labour I figured Curtis wouldn't mind coming home an hour early. I predicted that real labour would probably hit late that night or the following morning since all of this warm-up generally happens a day or so before the real contractions start going.

I left a message for my friend and then called Curtis and told him to come home. When he repeated, "Now?" back into the phone I heard co-workers behind him start cheering and clapping.
While I waited for Curtis to get home I checked myself again and couldn't feel my cervix. The bulging bag and now part of a head were so low that I couldn't get my fingers in far enough to feel what was going on. I figured I couldn't be that much further in and gave up on checking. Real labour hadn't actually started yet, and the only difference seemed to be that he'd engaged. The mild were sometimes as far as twenty minutes apart and I only noticed them if I paid attention.
I sat on the birthing ball in front of the computer and made my updates. Curtis came home about ten minutes later, and literally as soon as the front door opened real labour hit and the contractions were suddenly five minutes apart and intense. It was as though someone had flicked a switch to start me up. There was no gradual build-up to it.
I couldn't get off the ball; every time I tried a contraction would hit and I'd have to sit back down again. I ended up stuck at the computer for an hour. I was feeling rather ridiculous, thinking that I was going to have my baby in front of the computer with forums and friends up on the screen and how I could never again claim to not be addicted to the internet if that actually came to pass.

Finally I managed to get up and go to the bathroom. I wanted to be alone for a while and feel my contractions without distraction. I laboured on the toilet for another hour, by myself. The contractions felt much easier there: I was able to focus more on opening up and made quieter, lower noises through them. I kept my fingers and throat open and tried to make my body limp when each contraction crept up. It was working very well, being able to be alone and not afraid that eventually someone would burst in made it so much easier to relax and I was almost able to sleep, or at least disassociate, through the contractions by self-hypnosis.
I continued this for about forty minutes before the cramps became a little more intense and I was unable to continue the meditation through them. I had a little bit of bloody show at that point, and was still unable to check myself because of how low the baby's head was.

Curtis quietly asked permission to enter my birthing zone to bring me ice water with a bendy straw and some yogurt and granola to eat. I had as much as I could, but was starting to feel nauseated and couldn't finish it. After a few more contractions I decided to try and fill up the tub and see if some of the warm water would help.
I ran the bath as high as it would go and tried to get comfortable. It was at this point that I started feeling that intense "nothing is working" feeling that is very typical of transition. Although I didn't recognize this as transition (also typical of transition...) The contractions were a little closer together, a little more intense but I was still waiting for them to get "really bad" and still considered myself in early labour.

At the tail end of a few contractions I felt this very odd tingling feeling in my chest and upper belly. It was something I've never experienced before. It felt almost like a tiny urge to push, more of a nudge than an urge. With the next contraction I tried giving a little push and that felt pretty good, so I called Curtis in and asked him to stay. I still didn't feel like I was really that close to the end, and imagined I would be hitting transition soon. I always expect transition to be so dramatic that I cannot possibly mistake it for anything else, but this is my third labour now and I have yet to be "taken over" by one the way I see others experience it.
The tickling feeling started to get a little more nagging, but still didn't feel like a real urge to push. I held it in, exactly scared but a little unnerved by the speed and the idea of letting go of this baby. The last baby who left my body died shortly after birth, only 11 months prior, and I was struggling throughout pregnancy with the fears that leaving the haven of my womb and cutting the cord would result in the death of my child. I asked Curtis to give me some reassurance that it was okay to give in and start pushing, and as soon as the words left his mouth my water broke with a huge pop that was audible even underwater. The level of the tub raised up by about an inch, if not more. There was some meconium (normal for postdates babies) and a little bit of blood. I felt his head come down very hard and the urge to push was now undeniable. I leaned back in the tub so I could raise my hips and get as much coverage in the water as possible. After only one push I started to feel a burning sensation. I had Curtis reach down and feel his head just as it started to crown. I could feel the thick rolls and wrinkles on the top of his head and realized he was going to be fat, just as I'd been hoping.
The next few minutes were so incredibly intense for me. Not just physically, but emotionally. It was coming very fast and I had expected myself to be terrified of letting go of this baby... but I wasn't.

I applied very gentle counterpressure to my perineum to prevent tearing when I felt him crown at his biggest, and Curtis mistakenly thought I was trying to push him back in and at first tried to gently move my hand. It's a little difficult to speak coherently when one is crowning a baby, so all I could muster was, "No no no!".
I'm not a big fan of the ring of fire sensation, so I made a lot of horrible noises over the few seconds it took for his head to come out.

Once his head come out all the way the relief was instant. I reached down and felt his nose and eyes. He came out anterior, even though when I'd checked his positioning a few hours ago he was still firmly set in a posterior presentation. I had felt a lot of spinning and moving just moments before I started pushing and I imagine that's when he turned the right way.
I felt him rotate his body to prepare his shoulders for birth; the feeling was just like someone trying to pull him out and I yelled, "What the hell is that?!". Curtis didn't have an answer for me and didn't realize I was asking rhetorically. It was an incredibly weird feeling.
About twenty or thirty seconds passed and I gave one more push. His body flew out so fast he went almost clear across the tub. Both Curtis and I reached down and together we pulled him up out of the water. He was a little gray at first so I started vigorously rubbing his back. I turned him over one arm and slanted him downward, saying, "Come on baby, come on baby". Curtis tells me later this made him nervous, but I wasn't afraid at all. I knew he was fine. Curtis admits this was the point where he forgot everything I'd ever told him about how being a bit slow to start is okay when you're not clamping cutting the cord the instant they're out. The umbilical cord continues to provide a steady stream of oxygen, blood and nourishment until the placenta detaches from the uterine wall: it is a lifeline.
I saw him open up his eyes right away, he started grunting a few seconds later, and pinked up very fast after that.

My mother, LC and Tempest were waiting outside the door and all came in to see him just as we were lifting him out. I vaguely recall my mother asking, "She's okay?" when she saw his (we were all thinking "her") initial colour, and I answered, "Yup!".
She was incredibly supportive and calm through this experience, I'm so grateful she took what I had said to heart and been such a rock. She never tried to interfere and was incredibly respectful with offerings of help and support. She wasn't a "mother hen" in the least, didn't lose her cool and I'm grateful for her presence around me during the labour. It's a complete turnaround from how she'd acted when I was labouring with Tempest: fretting and busying and generally making everyone a little bit nervous.
I asked LC to check her watch and it was 6:10pm, and it had been about two minutes since he'd emerged so we called it 6:08!

Tempest wanted to join me in the tub, but it was pretty gross so I asked her not to get in. Instead she perched on the edge: "That's a baby! Look at that baby! That baby came out your 'gina. That baby is sad. Will you nurse that baby with your nipple?".

He started nuzzling at my breast but didn't seem too interested in nursing. A few minutes later my mother asked, "What's her name?"
"He. It's a boy," said Curtis.
"It is not," I said. I lifted his legs to check, and then started screaming. All through my pregnancy I kept hearing his name in my dreams, I'd shared it with Curtis and wondered why it never felt quite right. We'd spent many nights sitting on the couch for hours at a time trying to figure out why it didn't fit when it felt like that was the right name. I kept applying it to a girl. In the back of my mind I would think, 'but it would be perfect for a boy'.
Curtis had noticed as soon as he came out but kept it so that I would figure it out on my own!

Less than five minutes after he was born Curtis pointed out that the placenta was sitting right at my perineum, just as I'd visualized in my meditations. I gave a tiny push and it came right out. We stayed in the tub about twenty minutes adoring him before I pulled the plug and had Curtis set up the bed with chux pads so I could lay down. I wrapped Xan in a clean, hot towel that my mother had just warmed in the dryer and passed him to LC so that I could clean off the placenta in the tub and check it over to make sure it was whole.
As I rinsed myself off I noticed quite a few large clots so I asked Curtis to bring me a half cup of water with a few teaspoons of chlorophyll in it to help rebuild blood supply. I drank a glass of ice water, and then sipped on some orange juice as I got into bed and nursed him. Amber arrived about ten or so minutes later (missing the three hour birth completely!) and started taking photos.
In the meantime, I called my father and announced the news personally, Curtis called his work (that he'd only left a few hours before!) and his mother.

I felt so comfortable and glowing. I wasn't even the slightest bit sore. Everything just seemed absolutely perfect and... normal. Even though something so amazing had just happened, I could just get up and go on with life. I didn't even think about my cesarean scar, or my hospital experience less than a year before.
After a few hours I called my LLL Leader and asked to borrow her scale to weigh him since we had forgotten to pick one up. She came by, oohing and awwing, took part in the weighing and asked me all about my birth. I promised to come and show him off at the next meeting (eight days later) and gave her permission to make a birth announcement to the email list.
Amber went and picked up my friend Marian who had been present at my daughter's birth and brought her over to see him. I was up until almost 2am, nursing, making phone calls and letting it sink in that I'd just given birth. Life felt so undisturbed by the process; it was so quiet.
It's amazing to have a secret no one else knows until you choose to tell them.
A baby was just born and the only people who know of his new existence were those I wanted to. We had the opportunity to tell whoever we wanted, whenever we wanted.

We wrapped Xan's placenta in some towels, salted it and swaddled him up with it on his stomach. We didn't officially decide anything with it, but it didn't feel right to cut the cord so soon. When he was about two days old, after the cord had long dried and started to crimp and break, it felt right to separate him at the breaking point.
Curtis cleaned and boiled a pair of scissors and I spent some time talking with Xan and asking his permission. We put the placenta in the freezer, planning to plant it in the spring.
The point where the cord was breaking off was around eight inches past his navel, but when we clipped it there, even though it was completely dried and brittle, it somehow curled into a perfect tight coil around his belly just before falling off at the next diaper change.

Xan Ronan weighed over 9lbs and while we had no exact ounce measurement we do know based on placenta weight and his pattern of loss/gain that it was closer to 9.5lbs than 9. He was 21 inches long (the same as his sister) and about three weeks overdue. He had black hair, dark eyes and darker skin just like his "irish twin" less than a year before him.
As a small woman (5') treated for pituitary dwarfism, who married a tall man (6'4") I'm pretty sick of hearing about how I will never be able to birth any big babies. It's pretty nice to be able to hold up my 17lb 2 month old and say that not only did I birth over nine pounds of bouncing baby boy naturally and unassisted, but I did it VBAC!

Newborns look so tiny to me I can't believe he weighs more than Tempest did. Then again, I do notice some differences: the smallest setting on diapers are much too small for him, and the two or three preemie-sized diapers I have can't fasten. He can also fit into the size small longies I knitted and his legs are much too long for the newborns (which also happen to be frilly and girly). He doesn't seem that chunky with the exception of his shoulders, I guess he carries it well!

[ Labour and Birth pictures ]
[ Pictures from Xan's first day ]