Maya Ehnat was brought up to be comfortable with birth, and so from the get-go, her language and approach weren’t fear-based. Beyond that, much of the preparation she did during pregnancy was guided by a desire to minimize trauma and bring heaps of pleasure and joy into the experience. She shares with Adriana how although her first birth was long and quite challenging, she wouldn’t describe it as painful. Now her second birth? That one was filled with power, permission, fluidity, and delight.
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- Transformation Through the Holistic Stages of Birth (Part One)
- Transformation Through the Holistic Stages of Birth (Part Two)
- Getting Comfortable With the Intimate Nature of Birth
- How to Bring More Pleasure and Joy Into Your Birth (And Why It Makes a Difference!)
How She Reframed Birth Toward Pleasure and Let Her Power Flow
Adriana Lozada: Welcome to Birthful, Mighty Parent or Parent-To-Be, so glad you’re here! I’m Adriana Lozada, and today we have birth stories from Maya Ehnat. And I find that these stories are the perfect, perfect complement to Debra Pascali-Bonaro’s episode on How to Bring More Pleasure and Joy into Your Birth (and Why It Makes a Difference!). And in case you are new to the show: first off, welcome, and then know that these two episodes form part of our wonderful series that we’ve got going on at the moment on Birth Beyond the Clinical Experience.
Now, Maya was brought up to be really comfortable with birth and homebirth in particular, having been born at home herself, and so from the get-go her language and approach to birth wasn’t fear-based at all. But even beyond that, much of the preparation she did during pregnancy was guided by a desire to minimize trauma and bring heaps of pleasure and joy into the experience. And although her first birth was long and quite challenging, she didn’t feel it was a painful experience. Now her second birth? That one she describes as “orgasmic.”
I was thrilled to talk to Maya because this was the first time we’d have someone share a story that would be described as “orgasmic,” and I really appreciate Maya explaining that, in her case, it wasn’t necessarily about having a sensual or even sexual experience, but one of flow and connection with her power.
My takeaway from our conversation is that we could all bring more joy into our lives, and part of the work is honoring your starting point— which is different for each one of us. To paraphrase and adapt the words of Cheryl Tatano Beck, who focuses on postpartum mood and anxiety disorders: Just like trauma, pleasure is in the eye of the beholder.
You’re listening to Birthful. Here to inform your intuition.
Adriana: Maya, welcome to the show! I am very excited to have you here and to hear all about your story.
Maya Ehnat: Thank you!
Adriana: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Maya: Well, I live here in Graham, Washington, which is a small town. We have a little community here. We have 20 acres and it’s subdivided in four parcels. So we have my parents who live out here with us, and my husband’s parents and both my sisters have houses on our 20 acres as well. So, we’re really happy here and where we live and really embracing the community living!
And with that, we’ve extended a health center here in our local town, with yoga, and we have a float tank. I had my first son— it was probably about four months after he was born— I myself went through doula training, and have really kind of shifted my own yoga practice and my own yoga teachings as I’m a yoga teacher as well (geared it a lot more into women empowerment and really embracing the feminine energy within myself since birth, that was really ignited with the birth of my first son and sharing that with my community). It’s a deep passion of mine to connect with other women and their femininity and, through not only their birthing process of a physical child, but any sort of birthing, metaphorically or symbolically, that women are experiencing.
So, that really enhanced my second birth that I’m here to share today, with my son who was born March of 2020. And I had a really nice foundation for the knowledge that I had been using to serve other women, and how I kind of doula-ed myself through my own pregnancy and my birth— I’d say it was really quite successful! I’m just so pleased with how birth was with both of my sons, but specifically with my second son, there’s been an evolution within myself that has brought me to this place of that story, and I’m so excited to share.
Adriana: And I’m so excited to hear about all that evolution, ’cause you know, I love the transformation and the evolution and what birth does to us! And I might… I can totally hear the journey that you’ve gone through and can see myself reflected in some of it, in the sense that it’s been through birthwork that I’ve found so many parallels and things to take away and bring into daily living. There’s so many parallels of what needs to happen during the preparation of pregnancy and birth and postpartum to other experiences in our life. So yeah, I totally hear that can be so soul-filling for sure.
Adriana: And how exciting that you’ve got that community village of support already close by! I’m sure that’s been wonderful for this postpartum period.
Maya: Oh my goodness, yes. And it actually was created with the pregnancy of my first son. As soon as I got pregnant, I knew that we needed a nest.
I feel like it’s deep within us to be tribal in this way. But for postpartum, it’s been an absolute dream this time. With my first son, it wasn’t quite created. So, yeah, this postpartum has been very different. And I know that this has a huge part in this sense of community and support.
Adriana: Where were you at, in terms of birth wishes and preparation?
Maya: So with my first son, I knew I wanted to have a homebirth. My mom had a homebirth with me. I was born at home in the water, and so I didn’t really know much different. I knew that most people have hospital births, but for me, I was brought into the world that way. So it was a lot more familiar and there wasn’t as much fear, I think, as some women have for birthing. I knew it was okay.
And so I found a midwife who served me wonderfully through my pregnancy. I am a yoga practitioner, and so physically I think I was really tight— I actually linked the episode of Can Exercise During Pregnancy Make Labor and Birth Harder? [n.b.: Can Exercise During Pregnancy Make Labor Harder? with Deb Flashenberg]. For me, this time around, that was huge, because of my experience with my son the first time around. I think it was really a blossoming that was happening in that area of my body as I had never really accessed some of the energies that were there in my womb as I don’t think any woman really can until they’re pregnant. Perhaps there’s a lot of energetic work that happens within pregnancy, and I worked with a doula who really helped me to access my femininity.
And there’s some past trauma that I kind of moved through and released. I had cysts on my ovaries and abdominal surgery to remove my cyst when I was 17. And they removed my right ovary and my fallopian tube. And so there was kind of this releasing of the expectation that this area of my body creates— disease or trauma or negativity/negative experiences— and releasing those ideas and really embracing that this area of my body can in fact not be about pain, but rather be about pleasure. And inviting pleasure into this area of my body and working on self-pleasure and letting that be okay and pleasure with my partner and kind of beginning that journey. And the doula I was working with specialized, you could say, in “orgasmic birthing,” and really helped to bring pleasure out in all aspects of life— not just within birth, but in every place.
And so I really prepared for that with my first son. And I’d say definitely I achieved a pleasurable birth with him. It was very challenging. It was nearly three days long and, absolutely, exactly what I needed, I think to have a long birth like that, to really shake me up and wake me up as a mother.
And I would never call it a painful experience. It was, it was challenging, yes. But, it was delightful in the way that it awakened me. I think I’m able to have that kind of mindset about it, because of the research and how I kind of reframed birth from not having to be geared around pain. But yes, it was challenging and yes, there was extreme sensations, but it was more of an awakening and the awakening was intense, of course.
Adriana: And I really appreciate, like, every time I speak with a different person, sharing their stories of all the different ways people approach birth and how they approach what it is gonna be for them. And for some people, there’s the need is more physical, for others it’s more emotional, for others, it’s more hormonal, you know?
And it sounds like for you it was more that emotional part of that connecting to deep energy, connecting to that aspect of meaning-making. And, you know, they’re all intertwined: we have a strong body-mind connection. But I’m very excited to talk to you about the orgasmic birth part of it!
And I think we’ll talk about it after the second one, because I know that it was even more so for your second one, ’cause I wanna get your description of that. I think you’re probably the first person who’s ever come up here and told me “I’ve had an orgasmic birth.” So I do wanna hear more about that!
But I always encourage people to go into birth with that curiosity, of switching it up and instead of coming at it from a point of resistance to pain, maybe do an exploration, switch it up to joy and pleasure, yeah.
So then how was that birth? You said it took three days!
Maya: Yeah, so it began on a Saturday evening and it was very slow to begin. It was kind of teasing me in a way and it was, I think. So all day Sunday it was slow and maybe 30 minutes apart, the contractions. Sunday evening, it kind of started rolling.
And on Monday morning, I called my midwife and I felt for sure that things were more active. And she came and I was checked at that point and I was a two! And I remember feeling like, “Oh, man.” And she even said to me, you know, “It’s gonna get more challenging.” And I was thinking, “Oh, man.” “Okay,” I thought. I had spoken to my mom at that point, “Man, I’m doing so good. I’ve got this. I’m doing so good.” And it did indeed get much more challenging— and this actually comes up in my second birth, of this concept of calling my midwife. And she left at that point, and said, “I’m gonna go take a nap. You go ahead and keep doing the work that you’re doing. You’re doing a great job.” And so that does come up in my second birth, because of this idea of “I don’t want her to waste her time.” And, you know, she didn’t make me feel like that at all, but it was still this… I thought I was farther along than I was.
And so it did get more intense throughout Monday and getting closer and closer together. And I remember hitting the peak. And for my first birth, my first pregnancy, I listened to the episode you have with Whapio on the holistic stages of birthing. And I remember kind of witnessing my birth from an outside perspective and kind of staging it as Whapio had described, of analyzing a little bit and holding space for what stage I thought I was at.
And as I continued to progress, I hit this transitional stage where— and I know this is very common— of, like, “Holy cow! I don’t know if I…!” The sensations are so strong! And with his birth, it’s much more faded than my second birth, but I remember— one of the main things I remember— is kind of this observer, as far as the orgasmic birthing that I prepared for with him, it was more to, in a way, detach myself from the sensations that I was feeling and just observing the sensations.
So the whole thing, it was kind of like there was two of me. There was the me who was experiencing the physicality of the birth, and then there was the me who was observing, and was more the mental and the emotional being of myself who was observing the physicality. And that’s how I felt the pleasure came, was because I wasn’t too much within the sensations until that moment.
I’m speaking of when it was like, “Holy cow!” and it was hard for me to detach myself from the physical sensations. And that was definitely a turning point. And as Whapio describes, “the rest and be thankful,” that came soon after. I was in the tub with my husband and there was about an hour period where I went away and I truly felt like I was downloading.
And this being my first pregnancy, my first labor, my first birth, I think that was so important for me to receive. I truly believe I was receiving information, into this motherhood. And I had a whole hour of rest.
And after that, you know, time period, at this point we’re at like two days. My contractions really slowed down, and at that point my midwife had arrived and she asked me “Are you getting urges? Are you getting pressure and urges?” And with him, I just… I didn’t really have that. I really felt like I had to bring him in, like, “Come on,” like, “Let’s go! Let’s get it going.”
And, it was so slow and we ended up breaking my water at this point, because it was so hard to bring him down into this world. So after we broke the water, she says, “Do you have the urge?” And at that point we started pushing, and I didn’t— I never really had that urge with him.
And so I started pushing, and the pushing ended up being about three hours. And now, looking back, I don’t think he was quite ready, and I was kind of trying to force him out and it worked. That’s his story… was, you know, I… that we counted for pushing and really it was so challenging, just a lot of force behind his birth. And I think that was deeper than just with him. I think it was within me as well, of really pushing myself into motherhood. And I tore as well. It was like a big stretch for me— emotionally, mentally, physically— and the perineum. And, I think there’s a lot of symbolism with that, of the tear and the pushing and the forcefulness of, like, bringing my first child in.
And it was equally as beautiful. Absolutely. There’s no doubt that his birth was exactly what it needed to be. And it shaped me for what I wanted my next birth to be.
Adriana: And I love your constant reframing of things with a curiosity and a learning and a digging deeper into the meaning of it— of saying “Why did this happen?” but not, like, in a “Why me?!” pity kind of way, but “What can I learn from this?”
What did you find out when you went exploring that what you experienced, so that it became the foundation for the preparation for your second one?
Maya: Yeah, so, as mentioned, it was so challenging, and I think that was a direct connection into postpartum with my son, was that challenge. It brought me into, really, introspection— is that the word?— of postpartum. And so immediately I was trying to process this “Holy, wow! That was really intense and really challenging.”
And that is exactly what postpartum was with my first son, was processing the challenge of labor and the challenge of pushing him out. And the tear itself. I was in bed for about two weeks to recover from the tear. I didn’t really wanna walk, it just wasn’t… And that’s the other thing, I bled out with him a lot. It was a homebirth, but my sister works in labor and delivery in the hospitals and she was my midwife’s assistant, and she had told me if I was in the hospital that I would’ve had a blood transfusion because of how much I bled out after his birth. And the idea behind that is, we believe that it was just so challenging on my body and my uterus was so tired that it had a hard time clamping up after birth and contracting. And so I had the Pitocin shot immediately after to help with that, but that, you know, correlates with postpartum as well, being that I just bled out a ton. And we believe I was low on iron at that point, and so my energy was really low. And yeah, it was a deep, deep experience for me.
I went really deep, and I’d say it was dark as well, and just kind of feeling lost in motherhood and really processing what it means to be a mother. And leading into my second birth, that was my main fear, really, was postpartum. It wasn’t so much the birth. I knew I had worked with women at this point and I felt confident in what birth is and confident in my ability to birth, but more so, It changed my focus on the pushing stage and the crowning and the actual birthing of the head and the body, not so much the labor.
I didn’t fear the labor. It was more I didn’t wanna tear and I didn’t wanna bleed out and I wanted postpartum to be a lot brighter. And so that’s kind of how I geared things for second birth.
Adriana: How deep was your tear?
Maya: I’m not even sure. My midwife never told me a degree or anything like that. But what ended up happening is I got a flap, somehow it created a flap and about four months after birth, I had a procedure done to remove the flap and to stitch it back up.
So, yeah, I don’t know the degree, but it was enough to where I didn’t feel like I could really walk without being uncomfortable and in pain. And so there’s some scar tissue.
And that was another thing with this birth is I had the viewpoint of, you know what? I can heal that scar tissue this time around— like, this birthing process is going to help me heal the wound that I had from my first birth.
Adriana: And you had mentioned that you felt that because of your history with exercise and movement during your life, you felt that your perineum was tight and that might’ve been a reason why. Do you still consider that to be true?
Maya: Yeah, absolutely. In yoga— I’m not sure how familiar you are or your listeners are— but a huge concept of yoga is called mula bandha, when you do different locks in the body. And so one of the locks that you do is right there in the perineum. And the concept of that in yoga is to “hold the energy in.” You don’t want the energy to escape out through— male or female— through that area of the body. And so you’re doing these locks and in every posture you’re locking in and up, in and up. And so in a birth, you want the opposite, really. You want the energy to go down and out, not in and up.
And so it was this constant practice that I had from my yoga teachings and my own yoga practice as a student, of pulling everything up and in, up and in, and having to relearn that in this phase of life. It’s not about in and up, it’s about down and out and down and out. And so with my first pregnancy, I kind of got that.
I was working on it. And I remember towards the end of pregnancy, my midwife… I had wanted a check to see how far I was. Um, I wasn’t in labor by any means, but it was probably around 38 weeks or so. And while she was in checking me, she said, “Have you been doing your, your massages, your perineum massages?” And I was like, “Yeah, I’ve been doing them somewhat, you know?” And so she did it, she did the massage and I was like, “Whoa! No! I have not been doing them like that.” That was really intense. And so, by no means was I massaging that way this time around, now I knew how to massage myself and to really soften the perineum.
And I can get to that with this second birth and how that affected, ’cause I truly believe, you know, there’s a huge difference there. So, yeah, to answer your question: Absolutely the perineum, with my yoga practice, was so tight before my first birth and, and now I found a balance of how to tighten when it needs to be tightened. But I don’t believe that in pregnancy, that’s… I don’t think that’s a time for it to be tight. To me, energetically, it’s so important to let the energy flow down and out.
Adriana: And you also have all these great hormones going through you, like relaxin, to just make everything soft and soft and supple and stretchy and, right? That’s the energy you want— not tight and constrictive, but just expansive, for sure. As we get into the second birth experience, how did it go? When did this all start?
Maya: So it was Thursday the 19th of March. And we had done our babymoon that week before, and I had been saying the whole pregnancy, “I just wanna get through the babymoon,” “As long as he’ll wait till the babymoon,” you know? And at that point I was 38 weeks. So it was pretty risky for me to book this babymoon at that point, but I was hoping at least that he was going to wait until after our babymoon!
Adriana: Did you guys go far?
Maya: It was about an hour away. It’s really deep into the woods and it’s where my husband and I got married. And so it’s a really special place. We stayed in the same cabin that we stayed in for our wedding weekend and, definitely, a huge boost of oxytocin. But it wasn’t too far to where if I started labor we couldn’t come home. So I was home, my husband was at work, and I had just got off a call with a yoga teacher and I could tell when I was in the call with her, it was like I was just out of it.
And my mom was there prior and she said, “Your belly looks really firm.” And she poked it and it was, like, really firm. And I thought, “I know he’s coming soon.” And so it was 11:45 a.m. I stood up from my couch and my son, while I was on the call with this teacher, he was in watching a movie on my bed.
And so I stood up from the couch and I felt something shift. It was almost pinchy-like, and I stood up, I thought, “Man, I feel like something just happened there.” That was an interesting sensation, and I felt physically something had shifted within me. And so I went and laid down with my son, and as I laid down, my water had broke.
It was, like, very obvious that my water broke. As I shared earlier, it was very different than with my firstborn son, as we had to break his water. And my water broke, and I… it was like, “Honey, Alder Baby, your baby brother, he’s coming!” My water just broken and I just felt so excited. It was like, “Yes, this is…” it was such a perfect way to begin labor, of the water breaking and just knowing. Already I felt so far along because with my son, that was like one of the last things that happened was water breaking.
And so, he said that “My baby brother’s coming today!” It was really important for me to have him involved in the birth. And we prepared him. He watched lots of birth videos and we would make noises together when he would go poop, we would grunt and be very vocal. And we would practice labor and have him hold my hand and I really wanted him to be involved in the process. And so he was so excited his baby brother was coming. And so I called my husband and said, “Come on home, my water just broke. We’re gonna get started here soon.” And I called my midwife at this point, so this is at around, like, noon, at this point.
By the time I had called my husband and called my midwife… and the water broke with a contraction, but I didn’t have another one for about 30 minutes. And so at that point it was probably about 12:15 p.m. that I had another one. And at this point, my husband’s about to get home and he had sent my dad over to help with the birthing pool.
We didn’t have that set up yet. So my dad is doing stuff with the hose and connecting it, making sure that the water is hot and blowing up the tub. And as I mentioned, all of us live here together— so my parents are here, my husband’s parents and my sisters as well. And so, he did that. My husband got home and they finished up the pool and my dad left at that point.
Then we had a snack. We had some tacos the night before and so we had some leftovers and I had two burritos. It was just like, “I’m gonna really eat, get ready for this birth,” because I’m thinkin’, you know, all I have to compare it to is my son’s birth, which was so long. And so I’m thinking “I have to really prepare,” and, you know, “It’s gonna be so long.”
And so I ate the two burritos thinking I need to really fuel myself up and my sister calls— one of my sisters right now is in California— and so she wanted to chat with me about just life. And I am like, “Guess what happened?” And she’s like, “What?” I’m like, “Yes…” She’s like, “Your water broke?” I’m like, “Yeah!”
So, within a 15 minute conversation— she called probably around 12:30 p.m.— within 15 minutes I said, “You know, I have to go. This is intense.” So within 15 minutes I had probably about three contractions. And on that third one, it was like, “Yeah. I’m sorry, I have to let you go. This is getting to a point where I don’t wanna have a conversation with you anymore about everyday life.”
And so then my other sister came and her intention for coming— she came around one— her intention for coming was to hang my affirmations. I had done a woman’s ceremony a week or two prior, and everyone wrote affirmations that applied to them, but then also applied to me. And so they kept one affirmation and gave me the other one. And I had this beautiful idea to hang the affirmations. And so my sister arrived and I tried to string the affirmations and I’m trying to hole punch them and the contractions, they just keep coming. I’d say they were about every five minutes. And I remember at this point I was laughing, like, “I just can’t believe they keep coming!” It was joy, to me, of experiencing these waves of my son.
And, I was excited. And so we gave up on the affirmations. It was like there was no way that I could focus on affirmations when these sensations just kept coming. And, so then my sister’s like “What can I do?”
And at this point, my husband’s like, “We need to call the midwife,” like, “She told us to call if they were five minutes apart.” They’re definitely five minutes apart and getting even more, four and three at times. And again, this is… my water broke at 11:45 a.m. and it’s around 1:00. so it had only been like a little over an hour at this point.
So my husband calls and he’s like, “They’re getting closer.” And I’m like, “Tell her I don’t want her to come yet. We don’t need her yet. I don’t want her to come and like, it’s not real.” And, you know, I didn’t wanna send her away like we had to with my firstborn.
And so she’s like, okay, I won’t come yet. Call me when you need to. So he hangs up and, and then my mom arrives and she’s so excited. She didn’t really think much again. All of us were kind of in shock because our only experience with my birth was this, my son. And so she’s talking to me, like, so excited.
And then she says something like, “Are you having another one? Are you having another one?” And I’m like, “I’m just as shocked as you are!” I just can’t believe that they’re continuing to come. And, I got pretty firm and I said, “There needs to be water in this tub and I need to get in this tub right now!”
And so that was right around… I’d say at that point it was around 2:00-ish. And so my sister and my mom, they stayed. And originally, that wasn’t part of my birthing plan. I didn’t invite anyone to the birth except for my husband. And I said, “We’ll just wait until the day, and I feel strongly that whoever is going to be there will be there.”
And it worked out so perfectly that my sister and my mom ended up being there. You know, my mom was just excited to talk about the studio, and my sister was just gonna help me hang the affirmations. And it was at a place where then they were in it just as much as I was. So, we filled the pool up and Phil’s like, “You know, I think we should call Tanika again.” Tanika’s our midwife.
And so we called and she said, “I’d like to talk to Maya.” And I knew, as a provider, that midwives and doulas like to talk to the woman to hear their voice. And so I was thinking, “It’s okay. I can act normal,” like, “I don’t have to sound strained here.” And as soon as I got on the phone with her, I heard my voice and I was shocked, of like, “Holy cow! I’m strained.” And it hit me “She should probably come now.” Like, I didn’t realize that I was the way I was until I had spoken to her!
And I had said to her something along the lines of “I thought that you didn’t need to come, but now that I hear myself, maybe you do need to come.” And, like, I just can’t believe how fast this is happening! And holy cow! And I’m just shocked. I just… I couldn’t get over the fact that how quickly things were happening.
And so I got in the tub at the point that the water was in it and at a nice temperature. It was a little after 2:00. And so Tanika was then on her way at that point, and she lives about 50 minutes away. And so that was… I had that in my mind of “Okay, she’s gonna be here in about 50 minutes,” and kind of in a way trying to keep track of time.
And as soon as I got into the tub, I felt at peace… I knew that this is where my baby was going to be born, and I was going to be in this space. And it was calming to me, and confidence of “Alright, this is it. You’re here. And this is where it’s going to happen.” And there was really no doubt because the way that things had progressed, it was like, “There’s no stopping now at all.” And at this point they’re about three minutes apart, and I got in the tub.
And as far as correlating this, for those who are curious about orgasmic birthing, something that I listened to during my pregnancy was an interview with Amber (and I forget what her last name is, but a lot of people who research orgasmic birthing will find her). And because she has a video in Birth Into Being of her, literally you see her orgasming, it seems so pleasurable to watch her birth. And it’s like, “Wow!” And so Amber was a huge influence to my pregnancy. And one of the things that she says is, “You want to allow the sensations to flow through you, and if you think of a hose that is kinked, you’re not allowing the water to run through the hose. And as soon as you unkink the hose, then the water can then flow through.” And so, in a way, I correlated that with the positioning in my body, is just continuing to allow my body to move in whatever way it wanted to move, to continue to unkink the hose and to let the energy move through me without, without stopping and without providing pressure.
And so once I was in the tub, I let my mind go and let my body move so intuitively without any sort of hesitation in what my body needed. And so, as I mentioned earlier, I was laughing, and that was a release for me, of letting myself laugh. And that was in a way of unkinking the hose, releasing that laughter. And then another way in which I feel I would unkink the hose is I would, at one point I puked. And it felt so good to puke. And I don’t know, it just came, I said, “I’m gonna puke. I need something to puke in.” And I don’t know how they got something so fast. And then I puked and it felt so good, and I cried and it felt so good to cry. And I did these deep noises, as many people are familiar with the noises that come with birth. And I feel like the noises were a huge way in which I can unkink that hose. It was like an affirmation, really, of continuing to unkink the hose and whatever way it was.
And through moving my body, through the pool and repositioning myself constantly without even thinking about it, just going for it and flailing at times of just not quite sure how to position. And so moving, moving, moving. And then, and then the contraction would be over and, without questioning myself at all. And I continued to do that for about an hour. And as I said, it took my midwife about 50 minutes to get there. And through all of those ways in which I would unkink the hose, to me, that was the orgasmic part of letting myself flow so freely and feeling so connected to myself.
So something in my pregnancy I should mention, that was really huge in my pregnancy, was self-pleasure. And self-pleasure was never anything I had practiced before. I had always utilized my partner for pleasure. And to connect to myself in a way in which I can so deeply feel myself, that I know how to pleasure myself and orgasm for… from myself, was a huge pivoting point in my pregnancy and really affected this birth, because then in birth, it wasn’t about my partner. He would touch me and it was great. But really it was me that was needing to be connected to myself and to know how to touch or to move or to express myself in a way that could bring pleasure and release the kink in the hose.
Because to me orgasm doesn’t have to be a peak of pleasure! To me, orgasm is a release of energy and that’s the unkinking of the hose. The orgasm comes when you unkink the hose and— boom!— the water flows out. And so to hold a space for myself to continue to unkink this hose, to me, that is the orgasm and the pleasure that comes with that confidence and the empowerment of “Wow! I know how to move myself. And my body knows how to birth. And this is incredible.” And so by all of those ways in which I mentioned, of continuing to unkink my hose, and to release that water.
And, to me, that water is the baby moving down further and further. And I could literally feel him moving down, which I could not, as I mentioned, with my first son. I had to force my first son out. And with this second one, I could feel him moving down and down and down. And then it was a pressure and my mom said, “Do you feel the urge to push?” And I said, “Pushing isn’t part of my birthing plan.” And I felt strongly that I didn’t wanna force him the way I had to force my son.
And there was no doubting this time that it was what people would call “the pushing stage.” And that was important, that I didn’t push with him. And instead I just continued to unkink the hose. And I continued to move, and my tones began to get much deeper. And it was probably the last 15 minutes, is when this shifted within me to where I could feel him moving down and my tones got much deeper and I knew big things were happening at this point. The movements were much bigger at this point. And I basically roared him out.
It wasn’t like Amber, when you watch Amber, where she is so sensual and sexy. Mine were more like deep roars very… What’s the word? I don’t even know the word. It was empowering to hear myself, that’s for sure. It was like this part of myself, this lion, lioness woman, that came out at this point, of allowing my tone, a voice to match the sensation that I felt in my body, which was very deep.
And I could feel his head begin to come out. And again, it was important to me that I didn’t tear. And I would soften, whereas with my first son, I would tense, there was a tensing with the push. And this time I wanted to be soft and not have to push him, but rather allow him to do it himself. And so my tone was so deep, but my body was… I would soften as things would tighten.
And if you watch my birth video, I actually am chanting to myself, “Stretch, stretch, stretch, stretch.” And you can witness me softening and allowing myself to stretch and then, and then roar again, and then I would soften and stretch. And so his head then was coming and my midwife just then arrived and she was getting her stuff set down and I said, “His head is out! His head is out!” And she said, “Okay!” You know, she came up and you know, —just, you watch the video, it’s so beautiful— she comes up and she so slowly comes and she smiles and she was so confident in me and I could feel that from her. I knew that if she didn’t come, I was going to be okay. But something about her being there, I just love her so much that immediately I felt just so safe. And she’s here now and so it’s almost like now the rest of his body can come out. So she just said to me, “With your next contraction, I want you to lean back,” ’cause at that point I was on my knees and I was using the birthing pool with my forearms, kind of leaning forward out of the pool.
And she said, “I want you to lean back with your next contraction, and you’ll pull them up to your chest.” And so with the next contraction, I leaned back onto my bum. And so at that point my knees were kind of into my chest and his head was all the way out at this point, and she reached in. I didn’t know what she was doing, but she was reaching in to see if the cord was wrapped around his head. And I said to her, “No, don’t! I want to do it!” And this is something we had talked about in pregnancy, of “Do I want to catch my own baby?” And I said, “I do, but I’m open to what the circumstances might be if you need to be involved.”
So at that point I told her, “No! Get away! I want to do it myself.” Even though, you know, really she was checking the cord. She wasn’t trying to catch my baby. And so my hands were very involved. I was touching his head and also kind of, I think, touching and stretching my lips around him as well, and trying to kind of help him out. Which again, for my first son, that wasn’t the case. The midwife was doing a lot of work.
And so my hands were there, and I say to him, “Come on baby, it’s time for you to come out. It’s time for you to come out,” like, “Come on, I’m here. We’re here. We’re ready.” And there he came! The rest of his body came out and he was underwater for a few seconds to where I was able to flip him over, ’cause he came out face-down.
I flipped him over so that he was face up. And he was under for a moment, to where I could pause before I pulled him up to my chest. And I pulled him up, and I put him right on my chest and it took him a moment as he came out of the water to take his first breath. I think It was such a smooth transition for him that he wasn’t quite sure, maybe, that he was born yet.And I went ahead and sucked his nose. And after I sucked his nose there was a breath that he took and then he started to cry. And my first son was quite floppy when he came out. He was gray and floppy. And with him… my first son didn’t cry a whole lot. He was, I think, pretty shocked.
And with this, my second son, hearing this story, he cried for about 30 minutes of adjusting, I think. And I could just feel him. And I was so deeply connected to him. And I really feel that my first son really paved the way for that mother love that I had been working on for the last three and a half years with my first son, and my first son has paved the way for this love.
And now here I am, immediately— and women have told me this— that you’re going to melt over your baby. And I didn’t feel that with my first son, but with this baby, I pulled him into my chest and the amount of love that I felt in connection, and just he was crying and I had 100% confidence that it was okay, like I was his mommy and it was okay. And I could just feel him and hold him. My son was there, I forgot to say that. He came in about 20 minutes before and it was so beautiful. He said, “Good job, Mommy. You’re doing great.” And then came in the pool with me and wanted to snuggle in with us.
It was really so romantic and very empowering to be able to catch him myself and be verbal with my midwife, too, of, “No, I want to do this myself,” and then to have my son there. That was a huge vision of mine and a huge preparation. And then for him just to be so authentic, he knew exactly what to do. There was no question that it wasn’t a big deal to him at all, that Mommy was in labor and making loud noises and that his baby brother was coming and for him to hop right into the pool and to snuggle with us once he was born and it was so wonderful.
And as far as breastfeeding, he latched on right away. And I delivered the placenta there in the pool. It came about 30 minutes later once my son latched on. My second son, his name— and I see this in the video too— it’s quite funny ’cause we hadn’t decided on his name just yet. I had a name that I knew was his name, but my husband wasn’t fully on-board just yet. And after, right after birth, I look at my husband, I say “His name is Hawthorne,” and my husband just laughs and it’s like, you can’t argue with the woman after she just did all that work! There’s no way that you’re gonna say no at this point.
Adriana: Yeah, try to change it now!
Maya: So my second son is Hawthorne, and it was such a fluid process into postpartum. It wasn’t a huge challenge the way it was with my first baby. It was so smooth and there was so much love and confidence, and empowerment, and all of the things that I had been preparing for in my pregnancy, which I took it very seriously and researched on how to achieve what I wanted to achieve and supported myself with the right people that would support my visions. And it all came true, even more so than I could have imagined, to deliver him myself and for it to be as fast as it was, and so enjoyable.
And don’t get me wrong, it was incredibly strong sensations—that being said, I don’t think it was as strong as my first son, and that I’ll say I relate to my calcium and magnesium levels. I feel like I fueled my uterus better this time around then perhaps was the first time. And I think obviously my uterus was more tired the first time than this time. But it was… I don’t wanna say it was easy, but man, it was fluid, I should say. It was so fluid, and it just unfolded so beautifully, and I know it was because I was surrounded with such beautiful love and support and I was very clear on my vision and I just feel so empowered to move into postpartum with that story and with that support.
Adriana: That is so fluid. And it’s funny because that’s pretty much what I, like, wish for every birthing person. I’m always saying, “I hope you have a flowing birth,” because you can’t predict the circumstances, you can’t predict anything else. But the one thing you can wish for is that it flows and that it continues.
And I thank you for the phrase of “unkinking the hose”— that’s really resonating with me and I’m going to spread it around, because that matches the flowing wishes and that’s all about supporting physiology as well. Like it holds it all in one. I’m loving “unkinking the hose.” And I have to ask you though: Did you tear?
Maya: No, I had a… she called it, like, a “minor”… It was inside this time, and I think I would describe it more like a road rash, based on the sensation that I feel. And she allowed me to use my finger after birth, to feel, you know, she had put her finger in and she felt a spot and said, and I went kind of, “Ooh.” And so I wouldn’t call it so much a tear as, like, a “road burn,” I think would be better.
Adriana: I think sometimes they use the word “abrasion.”
Maya: Yes. And so that was huge too. And I really did a lot of massage this time around preparing for that. I had a little wand, you know, the little crystal wands, the yoni eggs that are getting more and more popular.
I did a whole lot of massage, and holding space for my tension, I think, was huge, of recognizing— at least from the first birth where the scar tissue was, and then from past trauma— of holding space for the tension and just kind of putting pressure with the wand or with the yoni egg on these areas to release the tension. And it was uncomfortable. But I really feel that that was huge as far as not tearing.
Adriana: And I think also that very slow crowning and releasing and letting everything move at its own pace without adding additional forces is also really huge.
Maya: Yes. Yeah, like that— not that forceful tense push, but rather just allowing the body to push. I didn’t encourage the push anymore than my body was doing itself.
Adriana: Yeah. And that can be really hard to do, especially since we just have such a cultural conditioning to push and get that baby out really quick once crowning is happening. And yeah, crowning can take a bit longer, depending on baby’s positioning, size of the baby, all the things, right? Your tissues…
You were telling me time-by-time, and then you (and rightly so!)… you didn’t, ’cause time became so fluid. But how long afterwards was he born? I know that we were talking about your sister showed up at 1:00. I guess the midwife must have shown up closer to 2:00.
Maya: So we called her a bit after 3:00, and she got there right around, I’d say, 3:35. And my son was born at 3:41, so she was there, I’d say, about six minutes before he was born.
Adriana: And then this time around how your placenta came after half an hour. Was there any extra bleeding? How did that go?
Maya: That was huge as well, that I delivered my placenta and I didn’t bleed out. And you know, as mentioned, I feel that was huge as far as the way I felt postpartum with my firstborn, was that bleed out. And I was confident after I delivered my placenta, like, I didn’t have much fear at that point. Things had just flowed so fluidly that I knew it wasn’t gonna stop now. And I continued to nurse as well to help contract the uterus on that wound from the placenta.
And something I’ll say is I’ve been really adamant about my iron intake, and my midwife had told me— I’m not sure if you’ve heard this before— but not only is it important for bleeding, your iron levels, but she correlated low iron levels to depression as well, and she explained it to me as… I can’t explain it nearly as well as she can, but she… it was kind of like, “It’s a conduit.” Iron is a conduit for… oh geez. And somehow it is correlated with depression. And so, I feel like my high iron levels, at this point, is definitely correlating with my moods postpartum as well. I’m also consuming my placenta, which perhaps it’s placebo effect. If it is, it’s definitely working. But I feel strongly that every time I get a dose of placenta. I have a few more doses left. And I just feel a whole lot lighter when I do that. And my husband being home too, it’s been a dream come true.
Adriana: Well, I’m really happy to hear about a very fluid birth story!
I really, really appreciate that this was so wonderful for you, and that it happened just like you wanted. So, yay! Thank you for wanting to share your story.
Maya: I really hope that this can empower whatever a woman decides, whether they’re choosing to switch to homebirth or they’re having a homebirth, or they’re choosing to stay in the hospital, or birthing center, whatever it might be. And to go for it, and to research what it is that they want and to surround themselves with people that are going to support that, and stories that are going to support that.
For me, the takeaway is that I was really clear on my wishes, and I surrounded myself with support that I knew would support me in what my wishes were. Because it’s achievable, and I agree that things can change within the scope of birth and labor, but truly to, as you said, to go with the flow of whatever unfolds and to be supported through the whole process.
Adriana: Focused on unkinking the hose, even if we can’t control all the external things.
Thanks again for sharing your story! And continue in this amazing postpartum that you’re doing. I love it!
Maya: Yeah! Thank you so much, Adriana, for having me.
That was Maya Ehnat, who along with her mom, runs the Sol Health Yoga Kula. Learn more at solhealthyoga.com or find them on Instagram @solhealth
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Birthful is created and produced by me, Adriana Lozada, with production assistance from Aysia Platte.
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And then come back for more ways to inform your intuition.
Lozada, Adriana, host. “[Birth Story] How She Reframed Birth Toward Pleasure and Let Her Power Flow.” Birthful, Lantigua Williams & Co., May 17, 2023. Birthful.com.
About Maya Ehnat
Maya became a RYT-200 in 2013, specializing in Hatha (26/2) yoga. This began her teaching journey, and has created a foundation for her to build knowledge as she began to go down the rabbit hole of “yoga.”
Since then, she has completed a 100-hour ACROVINYASA training with YogaBeyond, 40-hour Hatha/Raja with Ananda, 50-hour Yin training with Pamela Chang, Doula Training at The Birthing Inn, Prenatal Training with Megan Sloan, The Art of Intuitive Adjustments with Meredith Holcomb, and is currently working on completing her RYT-500 with Dashama Love and Pranashama.
She specializes in a soft approach to balance and healing, and provides a space for her students to feel empowered while using their own intuition to guide their journey. Through her love of travel and exploration, she has led several yoga retreats around the world!
In November of 2016, she gave birth to her first son, Alder Jade, at home. In March of 2020 she gave birth to her second son, Hawthorne Onyx, in her home. Then daughter Magnolia Opal joined their family in May of 2022, also born at home. Maya feels that motherhood is the deepest aspect of yoga that she has practiced yet.
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