January 12, 2013

One Extraordinary Birth (6 Days of Labor, 33 Hours between Births, 2 Healthy Babies). ~ Lana Shlafer


Part One: Creating that bond through a spiritual birth.

It wasn’t that I set out to be an enthusiastic proponent of home birth.

As a matter of fact, I hadn’t thought much about what kind of a birth experience I would like to have until I got pregnant. Somehow, when I found out that I was carrying a baby—or what turned out to be twins, in my case—it became clear that it was my greatest desire to allow these children to enter the world in the most sacred, peaceful and loving way that I could imagine.

The more people gasped in disbelief of the possibility of having a natural home birth with twins, the more I wanted this experience to be the first gift I gave to my children.

This is my tale of the miraculous labor and highly unusual births of my twin boy and girl, Zaanti and Miela.

When I was six months pregnant, we relocated to Southern California. I was a little concerned about finding the right prenatal care, as most women at this point have already chosen a doctor and decided upon their birth plan. Moreover, I had been reading books about birthing written by midwives, yoga teachers and psychologists and was really considering using a midwife for a home birth. I had read so much about women experiencing these amazing visions quests during their home births—and ultimately, discovering a new-found strength and softness, as they molded into their divine feminine spirit.

I had also wanted one of those experiences where I came to a seemingly insurmountable mountain, scaled it, and then I did it again and again.

But more so, I wanted to bond with my partner Francis and feel the primordial creative force coming through us as we journeyed together—transitioning our babies from the unseen and into the material world. I wanted to feel what millions of women have experienced since the beginning of time—and nowhere in this vision of mine did I see bright lights, hospital gowns, being hooked up to an IV and immobilized, or being told what to do.

I faced resistance from some friends and acquaintances after sharing with them my desire of giving birth at home.

Eventually, I stopped talking about this plan altogether, except for with a few select friends who were both supportive and encouraging. Francis and I had to put aside all of the naysayers’ negative thoughts about the impossibility of a vaginal delivery, the hopelessness of finding a midwife so late in my pregnancy and about the likelihood of delivering my twins in a nurturing, drug-free environment.

Miraculously, I found a wonderful OB/GYN who agreed to provide both my prenatal care and serve as a backup doctor, should we experience a need. I was also fortunate to find an amazing midwife whose experience included delivery of 14 sets of twins and over 500 singleton births. We drove three hours just to meet with her. And in that very first appointment, I knew I had finally found the person I was looking for—that one person I trusted most to be the first to touch my new babies. She was Mama Earth embodied—nurturing, grounded and serene. I was so grateful and relieved to have all my birth plans finalized.

However, at 36 weeks, we went in for a routine appointment. The doctor explained that Zaanti (Baby A, the first one in position to come out) was footling breech and Miela (Baby B) was vertex; the OB/GYN strongly suggested that I schedule a C-section at 38 weeks.

My heart tightened. My throat narrowed. I felt as if I was breathing through a tiny straw—getting just enough air to get by.

As soon as we left the office, I became hysterical. Francis had to physically hold on to me so that I didn’t fall. This news was so sudden and so directly opposed to the birth experience we had both been wanting and planning that it was almost too difficult to digest.

But it was then, that I realized and soon accepted, that there was only one thing I could control in this situation; that being, my intention to follow my own inner wisdom. Everything else was completely out of my control and I would need to surrender to these events as they unfolded.

Francis and I decided it was best to gather more information before deciding upon our best birthing plan and options. However, whether through a C-section or a vaginal birth, I knew I wanted to be both conscious and with a conscience during my delivery.

I have spent almost a decade practicing and teaching yoga, meditating for countless hours—even participating in a 10-day silent meditation retreat—but nothing came close to what I experience in that week following my last OB/GYN appointment. I entered a period in which I felt an intense spirituality—the most I had ever experienced up to this point in my life.

I meditated, prayed, journaled and spoke with every ‘expert’ that I could find on this topic. I even consulted with a psychic.

But mostly, I listened.

I didn’t listen to all that was going on around me and on the outside, but rather, to my own internal voice—and in listening to my own internal compass, I was able to decide upon a birth that honored me, Francis and our babies.

When I spoke with our midwife about this news, she didn’t seem overly concerned. She had already delivered babies born breech, and even a set of twins born footling breech. I felt reassured and comforted by her confidence. I knew that if I had no physical symptoms and if I put all my trust in the Source of Life that was within me, then everything would be alright with our home birth.

I also consulted another midwife who told me that if she were having twins, then she would trust our midwife above and beyond anyone else. Hmmm, my internal compass was starting to really lean in the direction of the home birth.

However, what ‘sealed the deal’ was our discussion with the psychic.

I had never felt the desire to speak with a clairvoyant before—likewise, I had also wanted to explore all of my options. We spoke with her for a short while, before she said, “No wonder you don’t want to go to the hospital. I have a vision of you having more complications than usual, while being totally unconscious during them.”

Whoa, that sent a chill down my spine. Who wants to be unconscious while there are two newborn babies just waiting to be held by their Mommy?

On the other hand, who would want to lose a baby to complications? I asked her if she saw anything of this nature surrounding a home birth. She explained that although one of the babies might take a few moments to find its breath, that ultimately, there would be two healthy and happy babies.

I cried when she said this. It wasn’t that I thought that she could actually see into the future—it was more so, that her words really resonated with me. And although I believe that home birth is not for everyone, I also understand that this may be the case with hospital births, as well.

Ultimately, Francis and I had a heart-to-heart discussion—and being the amazing partner that he is—he said that he trusted me to make whatever decision I felt was best. We decided upon a home birth, and agreed that from this point forward, we would do everything in our power to turn Zaanti around. I even saw a chiropractor who performed the Webster technique—a maneuver designed to help maneuver a baby into a vertex position.

A few days later, I saw an acupuncturist for this very same purpose. The night after my acupuncture appointment, I felt so much movement in my lower abdomen. Could this be a signal that Zaanti was turning down?

I never had a chance to confirm this, as I went into labor the very next day.

Part II: Zaanti’s Birth

When my water broke, I was so excited I could hardly talk when I called my husband and my midwife, asking them to hurry.

I also called my mom to let her know that I would call again when the babies had arrived. However, she was so excited that she left work and drove straight there to be with me. Soon after she arrived, my labor stalled. Brenda, our midwife, assured me by saying simply, “Babies come at their own time. Be patient and to let nature do its job.”

The next day came and went, as our midwife stayed by my side to continue to monitor me. I was taking lots of Vitamin C and Echinacea in order to prevent any infection since this is always a concern after the water breaks. The babies heart beats were both doing great, and it seemed that Zaanti was also making his way down.

So we prayed, meditated and waited.

via Tara on Pinterest.

By the end of the second day I knew something was wrong. When I spoke to my therapist—one that was recommended to me by a friend—she told me what I already knew in my heart to be true—that having my Mom there was slowing my labor, because I was too busy focusing on her nervous energy and not directing the needed attention to my own labor.

My husband and I both agreed that we needed to ask Mom to leave. I was nervous to ask, but I needed to place the needs of my unborn children (and myself) above everything else; this was one of the most important lessons I have learned.

We explained to my Mom that we loved her and understood why she was worried for me and the babies. We also explained that this was not the energy most needed in the house. My Mom was wonderful—she understood that the best was she could help, was to go to a local hotel and hope for the best.

Right after she left, my contractions became steadily stronger.

By the third day, I was in active labor. It had been such a journey to get to this point of a home birth, that I hadn’t even thought about what it would actually be like to go through contractions without any pain medication. And even though I was so grateful to feel every contraction and movement within my body, I certainly reached a point when I was beginning to doubt if I could even do this.

After about 20 hours of active labor, I was almost fully dilated. I had been in the kiddie pool my husband set up for me in the bedroom, when I needed to go to the bathroom.

While I was on the toilet, I finally felt the urge to push. I was enjoying pushing in that position, but me midwife asked me to lay down so that she could have better access to our breech first born.

When I lay down on the floor, the pain became immediately unbearable. After a few pushes the midwife said, “Reach down and feel your son’s balls.” I laughed so hard, as I reached down to feel his tiny little testicles. I thought to myself, “This is one ballsy guy!”

After just another push, Zaanti’s butt came out—the midwife adjusted him so that he would slide out easily within the next few pushes. I felt so much trust in Brenda, and in the holiness of this moment—there was never any doubt that Zaanti would be born perfectly healthy. After a total of 21 hours of sacred, pain-transcending, mountain-moving, roaring labor, Zaanti was born at 1:45 a.m. on September 17th, weighing 5lbs 6 oz.

As the midwife placed him on my chest, I looked down and was in awe of his tiny face.

His eyes were wide open as he looked me right in the eyes. The love-joy-ecstasy I felt in that moment was indescribable. Then he lifted his eyes up and looked right into my husbands eyes. At that moment, I could palpably feel how special this boy was; I was instantly bonded to this tiny creature.

It felt as if Francis, Zaanti and I were moving in this ecstatic dance—looking at each other in turns, feeling our bodies close, breathing deeply and syncing the collective beat of our hearts.

This is the time when most women normally relax and enjoy this time with their new baby. I had one more in me though! Thank goodness a friend flew out from San Francisco and arrived just a few minutes after Zaanti’s birth. As much as I wanted to keep cuddling with Zaanti, I let my friend care for him—bringing him back just for feeding and cuddles.

I knew I had to focus on my little girl Miela coming out; the thought of going through another skin-ripping delivery was frightening but I knew that if I could do it once, I could do it once again.

Part III: Miela’s Birth

As soon as Zaanti came out, my attention split into two places and has remained that way ever since. One part of me was with Zaanti and the other with my unborn baby. I kept checking in, wondering if contractions would start again. I held Zaanti as another 10 minutes passed. I asked the midwife if she could check me again just to see what was going on.

Miela’s heartbeat was steady and strong, and I was dilated to about eight centimeters but still, I had no contractions. At around four am, my midwife suggested that I get some sleep and call her when the contractions recommenced. I slept for a few hours and woke up anxious for Miela to come out. I felt a divine presence around me, connecting me to my inner wisdom.

I took a walk, nursed Zaanti, ate, prayed, meditated and waited.

It was very hard for me allow this process the time to unfold. That was certainly one of the major gifts that these births gave to me—learning patience and allowing things to take the time they need. At a certain point the midwife discovered that Miela had decided to play around since she had so much room—this lady went transverse (sideways) on me! This was the one and only time I had a hint of panic. I knew that transverse babies could not be delivered vaginally and I certainly did not feel that I had come this far just to have a C-section with this second birth. I turned within and searched for an intuitive guidance. It became clear that I needed to use all of my inner resources to try everything I could to help turn Miela around again so that she could be born at home.

Sometimes, our problems can give way to the joy of discovering a solution. As I again connected with the therapist, I instantly felt connected to a spirit within her. She asked me to have my midwife check Miela’s heartbeat, estimate her positioning and find out if one of the placentas might be blocking the cervix.

Indeed, this seemed to be the case.

My therapist guided me into a trance-like meditation. I entered this hyper-awake state, completely lucid, but surreal. We worked together to connect with Miela, to encourage her to turn head down. I did certain hand movements over my belly and visualized what I wanted to happen. I imagined Miela and I together arranging the perfect space for her to turn so that she might come out easily and effortlessly. I was in such a place of trust.

I felt so present…so aware of the physical and non-physical, that I may as well have been high. I had always said that I’m not interested in drugs because I am high on life—this time I was really living it!

And it worked! When the midwife came back into the room 30 minutes later it was game on. The placenta had moved out of the cervical opening; Miela was in a vertex position and finally making her way down.

Evening turned into night, as my contractions became stronger. In the early  Saturday morning, even though my contractions kept growing, Miela had still not descending enough to push. I asked Brenda to break my water, as I was growing tired. But most importantly, I wanted to hold both of my babies safely in my arms; I wanted to kiss the bejesus out of them.

Around nine am, the midwife broke my water—it was the only intervention used during my home birth. Within minutes, the contractions were very strong.

All of a sudden I remembered what it was like to have waves of pain come crashing over me. But this time, I knew how to relax into the sensation—allowing it to wash over me instead of fighting it.

It may have also helped that I was too exhausted to even care about the discomfort.

Miela was born at 10:45am—33 hours after her twin brother. She weighed 6lbs 6oz, which was a whole pound heavier than her brother. This healthy, pink, chubby baby was squirming and screaming in my arms.

My heart was overflowing with so much love for this amazing creature who taught me so much already.

That’s when I finally released emotion more fully than I ever thought possible. I cried out in intelligible howls, holding Miela tightly to my heart, shaking and wailing. I did it! We did it! My children were both here. They were healthy, beautiful and with all of their parts in place.

And, we were at home. I was in my bed. I was a champion!

via Wendy Cohen on Pinterest

I felt such a flood of emotions come over me that I think only Francis understood what I was saying. I’ve had an evolving spiritual relationship with God/Spirit/Source, but at that moment it was clear—I was touching the Unnamed and it was holding all of us in its divine bliss.

Part IV: Happily Ever After

This miraculous birth passage certainly would not have been possible without all the amazing people who came to support us during this time.

Although there were many that did not believe in our endeavor, the ones that trusted us showered us with their love and faith. I am certain that their positive thoughts tremendously helped us in our birth journey and for that I am eternally grateful.

In the end, this unbelievable birth experience taught me so many wonderful lessons and has been the gift that keeps on giving. I learned to allow things to blossom at their own pace, just as an apple seed will take its own sweet time to become an apple tree.

Patience was never a virtue of mine and I used to think that sitting back was being idle.

Now, I feel that while it is essential to hold a strong intention, it is just as important to relax and enjoy the journey while it meanders. I now recognize more clearly that I am not in control and that I don’t need to try to fix things or figure them out all the time. I have grown to appreciate uncertainty and trust that the old proverb about everything happening for a reason really is true.

Another wonderful lesson has been to discover that there was a well of knowledge within me that was richer than any outside source. Had I relinquished my internal compass to experts, I would have had a very different birth experience.

Had I ended up in the hospital, there were at least three instances which would have resulted in a C-section.

Moreover, I would not have had the opportunity to build confidence in my intuition and my ability to manifest things that seem virtually impossible. It is amazing to live life recognizing that there is a sage inside of all us, and that we are able to communicate with this wisdom.

I now viscerally feel an internal guidance that helps me make decisions, both big and small. I am convinced that everyone has their own guru inside and if they take the time to listen and to find the courage to follow this guide, they will be living a life of truly limitless and unimaginable proportions.

If I can create this kind of a birth, what else can I create in my life? Truly, all things are possible—for me and for you!

The victory I felt as a result of this birth experience was incredible…and necessary…because now I needed to manage breastfeeding and caring for these two little angels.

But that is another story within itself that I will share with you another time.

All you need to know is that Miela and Zaanti are now almost two and a half years old and our family is healthy and thriving!


Lana Shlafer is a yoga teacher and the creator of Haelan coaching, a unique approach to helping people feel more confident, on-purpose and successful. It is one of her greatest joys to facilitate the client’s journey in achieving their wildest dreams. She has been described by so many words and the list keeps growing.  Lover (of life’s bashful twists and turns). Mother (of delightful twins born at home 33 hours apart). Yoga teacher (and grateful student). Healer and Coach (who gets healed through every healing). Eternal learner (in this lifetime and beyond).  But what matters most is not where she was raised, where she has been, what she has done and who she has done it with, but how you feel around her.  It is her strong intention and great pleasure to create a sacred and safe space for people to release their limiting beliefs and fears and soar to greater heights than they ever believed possible.



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Assistant Ed: Tara Lemieux

Ed: Bryonie Wise

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