It all started when…
I realized I knew nothing about pregnancy, childbirth, mothering and relationships when I became pregnant with my first born (2008). I considered myself a pretty educated women during this time holding 2 degrees, one in communications and one in veterinary technology, I was running my own business Innogym, as a personal trainer and very informed about holistic lifestyle including: movement, sleep, food, water, stress, rest, thoughts, emotions, modern medicine…
I thought I was going to give birth with a doctor at the hospital like all the other women. I didn’t even know what a midwife was or the business of being born. My partner at the time was encouraging me to explore natural birth outside of the hospital. I was unsure if this was safe and I had my mother’s and grandmother’s birth stories imprinted in my conscious and subconscious. My mother gave birth to 4 live babies in which 3 were premature and 2 of the 3 passed away shortly after birth. I was the 4th and my mom was going to try for a vbac (vaginal birth after cesarean section). It ended up in an emergency c-section. Thus all 4 births were traumatic and scary for my mother and for me. My grandmother gave birth in the 50’s when Twilight sleep, induced by a mixture of morphine and scopolamine. The twilight sleep induced a state of disorient and managed the pain by making the mother forget the entire birth process. So technically I (the egg that became me) was inside of my mother who was inside of my grandmother at birth. You can only imagine the pain and disconnect I had to childbirth.
Because I was into holistic living, I was open to exploring birth centers and other options for childbirth besides the hospital. Little did I know that a birthing center was only a few miles away. We took a tour there and spoke to the midwives and that was it…I knew instantly that I wanted to birth there and I also enrolled into midwifery school at the same birth center. What a blessing. During my first pregnancy I had the opportunity to attend over 20 births. Birth became magical, beautiful, and mystical. I loved every birth and by the time I was 40 weeks, I was so excited to give birth and see how it feels! At exactly 40 weeks I gave birth to my first born, in the warm water. It was the most empowering and difficult moment in my life. After I gave birth I looked back at my husband and said, we are not having seven of these and at the same time I was in deep bliss…the most present I have ever been. I know if a train was roaring through the birth center during the actual birth, I would have never noticed. All of my energy was inward.
Along with the beauty and excitement of giving birth naturally outside of the hospital, I had to ignore my family’s ideas around birth, and that I was not choosing a safe way for the baby to come into the world. I had to put their fears aside, and basically ban both sides of the family from coming to the birth or even visiting until we were settled at home and ready for company.
This year of life really set the seeds for birth as I know it and my passion continued to grow.
My husband at the time and I created a business Fit For Birth. We wanted to share the knowledge of preparing for birth and the natural birth process. At the time we were kind of pioneers in the exercise and fitness field for pregnancy and post partum. We designed a pre and post natal corrective exercise specialist certification and hosted many seminars and classes for exercise professionals, doulas, midwives, chiropractors, doctors, accupuncturists, massage therapists…
In 2010 I was pregnant again! I usually say that my first born took me on the physical journey of pregnancy and childbirth and my second took me on my spiritual journey. I started attending women’s dream circles, exploring the connection between moms and their unborn babies, talking, singing, dancing to my baby and creating an intuitive communication with her. During one of the dream circles I had a clear vision of a mountains and ocean and dolphins. I knew instantly this is where my daughter wanted to be born. I was guided to the Big Island of Hawaii when i was 32 weeks pregnant where I swam with spinner dolphins almost every day, ate food from the land, made new incredible friends, and had my first home birth experience. During this birth I experienced the involuntary fetal ejection reflex. Basically my daughter birthed herself, I didn’t have the thought to push, she just pushed herself out.
As I continued to learn and research, I found this involuntary fetal ejection reflex very fascinating and that it is almost never seen anymore because birth is extremely managed and in order for a woman to experience this during birth, she has to be completely left alone so her neocortex isn’t triggered. The ancient body knows how to birth on its own and when the logical brain is performing the reflex can’t happen. I started to realize how we as a culture have complicated birth in so many ways and stripped women from their rite of passage…a natural undisturbed birth.
My friend Ben and I created a homemade documentary on my daughter’s birth, Naiya: Journey into life. The intention was to show how birth can be safe, sacred, simple and empowering. We simply filmed the last month of my pregnancy and our birth in Hawaii. When we originally posted it on YouTube we had over 100,000 views in the first week. I was shocked. Of course there were the positive and the negative comments.
Women started to reach out to me, asking if they could come to Hawaii to give birth. By this time I had returned to Miami, and recognized the desires for women to explore themselves and birth options during pregnancy. Because I wasn’t living in Hawaii anymore I couldn’t offer a birth option but I did start offering pregnancy retreats in Hawaii. This is how Conscious Pregnancy Retreats came to fruition.
When Naiya was one and a half I found myself in the hospital on my death bed. I had been in a stressful relationship, homeschooling my children, building Fit For Birth and organizing Conscious Pregnancy Retreats. I was doing all of the “right” things, eating organic healthy meals, going to yoga a few times a week, sleeping as much as I could with a baby still nursing, and following my passion of pregnancy…but it was all the doing that was killing me and my mind was constantly running and I wanted to create separation in my relationship, I was alone in the home all day with the kids, I did not have any family around, and I did not have my tribe close by. Everyone was always busy with their to do lists and play dates were usually planned out in great advance. The root though was I loved being in Hawaii, I felt like it was my home. I felt the most nourished I have ever felt and supported by the land, people and way of life. My heart was yearning to go back and live a simpler life.
I didn’t know how I could get back there until my life was almost taken from me. In 2012 my mom had to fly to Miami to take care of my 2 children as I was admitted to the hospital. I had lost control of my physical body, basically paralyzed. After 10 days in Miami, my mom was not satisfied with the care I was receiving and she flew us to California where I was admitted to UCLA hospital. After 3 weeks in the hospital with every lab test coming back negative I felt hopeless and so did the doctors. I usually slept about 20 hours a day and when I was awake I was listening to audio books by Ekart Tolle and watching documentaries on the Dali Lama. I was searching for meaning. I was forced to let go of all obligations to my children, partner and business.
I believe one of the greatest gifts was this unidentified sickness. My voice box was also paralyzed and it was extremely difficult to get any words out. This forced me to listen and to be quiet. What a great practice, to listen more, talk and do less. I realized that so many of us in the world are talking and doing and getting nowhere, in the sense of dreams and inspirations, love and passion of life. Instead life becomes mundane and stressful, unhappy and unfulfilling leading to sickness, disease and loss of hope.
After a couple weeks in the hospital I reached out to a mentor of mine, Paul Chek, and asked if we could have a skype session. During this session he asked if I had breast implants as the symptoms I was having were in alignment with those who have had silicone poisoning. I did have implants at the time and it made sense, but the doctors refused to see that as a cause of my illness and ignored the suggestion and my request to have them removed. Paul also did a healing on me and told me that I am not going to die, I am a spiritual warrior. My body immediately resonated with the healing and the words. I remember Paul asking me to walk back to my bed as I had the phone set up on a table in a chair next to the bed. I couldn’t believe he was asking me such a thing, walk back to my bed? But I tried and with every ounce of my energy and mental capacity to tell my legs what to do, I made it the few steps back to the bed and collapsed.
I knew I was on my way back.
After all of the hospital tests came back negative they offered me their only option of treatment, IV steroids for 3 days and 5 days of plasmapherisis. I was not excited for either of these treatments and really just wanted to get home especially because they were simply trial treatments with no promises. The first time they came in to start the treatment I refused…I was not ready. The next day I had an angelic experience with my dad and one of the nurses. It was one of those unexplainable events that brought me the peace and trust I needed to go through the procedures.
The five days of procedures were definitely not fun and I dreaded each one, especially because my body would vibrate like crazy from the inside as they were taking all of the blood out of my body and stripping the plasma from it and then putting the blood back in with a synthetic plasma. Their thought I had some sort of neurological autoimmune disorder and by stripping the plasma from the blood my body would stop attacking itself.
After the fifth day I was released with a home nurse, occupational therapist and a physical therapist. My parents took me to their home where they were caring for Naiya and my son Kaden was with his other grandparents in Florida. During this time I made the connection that I was physically at the same level of development as my 20 month old. I would watch the determination she had to learn new things and how it took all of her concentration to successfully complete a task. For me every movement was an opportunity to slow down and focus, whether it being sitting up in bed, standing up, walking, eating with utensils, drinking something…literally if I did not give my complete attention to the task I would fail, either fall down, miss my mouth eating or drop the utensil, spill…and although this was extremely challenging, I saw it as an opportunity to reteach myself how to move intentionally with all of the principles I had learned in my studies of posture, corrective exercise and personal training.
Within a week, my intention to get well was so strong I no longer needed any of the therapists and I was completely focused on being my best self. Within a month I was able to walk, hold my daughter, eat, drive, and perform all normal activities without too much thought. At this point I was also able to go under general anesthesia to have my breast implants removed. This was a huge relief for me as I had been wanting to take them out for years but I was either pregnant or breastfeeding for the past 5 years.
A week after surgery I hosted my first private pregnancy retreat in Malibu, CA. It was a beautiful heart opening experience and gave me the excitement, hope and dream to continue following my passion of pregnancy, birth and parenting. Later that month my partner and I flew to Arkansas to teach the Fit For Birth course to a private fitness studio and then we headed back to Miami. I felt like a new person and couldn’t wait to live my life and thrive.
It was now almost August 2012 and I had promised Naiya we would return back to Hawaii, her birth home and my heart’s home. I sold my car in Florida and booked a one way ticket to the Big Island with my daughter. While I was there it became clear that I needed to end my business and personal relationship with my partner and that I was going to stay in Hawaii. I promised myself I was going to take a year off of “work” and simply be present in the moment and allow my intuition guide my way.
I was able to stay at a beautiful retreat center, where I had a large deposit to host my first Hawaiian Retreat, which I had to cancel while I was in the hospital. I trusted that if I was doing the right thing all the pieces would fall into place, my son would join me and he would attend the Waldorf Charter School up the road. Within a few weeks of living at the retreat center, I was able to turn it into a pregnancy sanctuary. We had 3 pregnant women living there and a midwife just moved to the island and needed a place to stay. It was magical. All of a sudden we were living in community and loving life. We were all single moms and moms to be. Life flowed with ease and grace for 5 months. We held blessing ways, retreats, and assisted in births at this magical spot.
After the 5 months we were asked to leave by the owner because we were bring too much attention to his sanctuary and he was in a legal process with his retreat center/home. It was hard to go yet I knew and trusted the phrase when one door closes another door opens.
I took the next month to myself and did a yoga teacher training on the Big Island and started offering Prenatal Yoga Retreats. Within a month I was asked to lead a private Prenatal Yoga Retreat on Maui. I brought my daughter and a good friend with me where we stayed at the 4 Seasons Hotel. This one experience made it a reality that there is a need for my passion and it will all flow in divine time.
The next couple years were pure bliss, hosting retreats and destination births. I was now able to accept and fulfill the desires of the women who wanted to come to the Big Island to be with the wild dolphins and give birth after watching Naiya: Journey Into Life. I had my support team and a community of amazing families.
In 2015 I met a wonderful visionary artist and musician. We were out swimming with the whales one day and as we were paddling in on our paddle boards I received a direct message, this is the father of your next baby. I was a little unsure because this man was 23 years older than me and not really my “type”. Well we became instant magnets and I told him about my experience paddling in and he told me “NO NO NO I already have my babies” who were 12 and 19 at the time. He said we are here to birth something bigger not a baby. Well 1 month later I had a little seed in my belly.
During this time, we were very busy with 4 moms on the Big Island all due within 3 months. Life was magical and full. BBC had contacted me and asked if they could film for their show Katie Piper’s Extraordinary Births. We all were a little hesitant as we knew how the general mass public viewed our sacred pregnancy and birthing practice and on the other hand we wanted to show a different way to birth. We said yes to the film. Just a few days before it was released, we were given a copy to view and although the film was professional they kind of made a joke out of us and twisted interviews around. We knew this might be the case and as soon as it was released we received tons of hate mail and lots and lots of negative article written about us and specifically the one mother they featured in the film. Below is the BBC film and beneath that is my perception of their journey.
In general, this pregnancy was much different than my first two. I was not as confident and clear of any of it. I would get sick when swimming in the water, and I had been swimming in the water every day, taking pregnant women to visit with the wild dolphins for 2 years. I literally would get really bad vertigo and throw up. It became a “job” instead of a passion to guide women out into the ocean, and eventually I had to stop because it was not enjoyable anymore. I felt a deeper connection to the earth now.
When I asked the dolphins for guidance, they told me that my time was done in the water, I have learned what I needed to learn from them as of now and that I am to live it on earth. I made a few little videos about the dolphins lessons of trust, love, surrender, to play more, love more, laugh more, make love more…here are 2 of them.
When I was 7 months pregnant, December of 2015 my grandfather died and I flew to California with the kids for his funeral. It was a beautiful and sad time. I felt grateful I was able to share his greatest teachings to me at his service, he was such a wonderful man who loved so deep with his heart. He had and lived by his strong values. He was a man who lived by example not by preaching or saying how one should live. It was not until his service that those words flowed out of me. Live by example. These words really touched a deep spot in my soul and I have held onto them ever since.
When it was time to fly back to Hawaii I was unable to get on the plane. Something inside of me literally would not allow me to go to the airport. I was so confused yet trusted in the moment and stayed at my parents home with my kids. I just waited and waited for guidance. Within a few weeks we had our tickets to Miami, Fl of all places, the place I promised myself I would never return to.
As soon as I arrived it was challenging, as I had to deal with my past relationship that I simply left 3 years ago when I made the choice to stay in Hawaii. I knew this was the reason for my return. This baby did not want to enter the world with out the relationship being mended as we had to be involved in one another’s lives due to children.
Through the pain came the love and healing of our relationship. The acceptance of one another and our joint love for our child/children.
During this time in Miami, my mother flew out to be with me and she wanted to attend my birth. I had not allowed her to attend the birth of my first 2 children because of her fears around birth. I knew the impact it can have on the laboring mom, not only by all the books I had read, but also witnessing it in the birth room. Literally, moms would stop labor if the husband or mother was nervous and we would send the nervous person an an important errand like food or something so they thought they were being helpful, and this would allow the mom to go back into labor.
I thought I had mastered the natural birth experience and that I would give her the gift of watching her grandson be born. She had always dreamed of seeing a baby be born. Well my mom thought that I would give birth early because my belly was so big, so she booked her tickets to arrive three weeks before my due date and fly home on my due date. I should have known that this baby was not going to come when my mom was here…but I did not pay attention to that, as my due date came and went, and my mom extended her ticket 2 times.
Finally, on March 13, two weeks past my “due” date, my water broke, and my mom was still there. I instantly felt this desire to curl into a cocoon and just be by myself. I didn’t want to report to anyone or be with anyone, yet my mom was right in the house from me, and I couldn’t hide water gushing here and there. I felt so uncomfortable and I felt bad telling her so I just tried to keep calm and accept the situation. It didn’t help that I had an ultrasound the week before, (protocol in Miami when a week past your due date) and the baby measured 11lbs and they hospital where I had the ultrasound done wanted to perform a c-section that moment. I literally had to sign waivers saying I am going against the doctors orders in order to be released from the hospital.
I knew that ultrasounds could be off by 1 to 2 lbs sometimes more but that still left me with the idea that my baby will be 9lbs and wow I had first hand experience of what it felt like to be talked down to in the hospital by doctors and nurses, telling me I was making a stupid decision and that I was putting myself and unborn baby at risk. I know if I did not have the knowledge and experience that I did, I would have surrendered myself to the “business of being born” in the hospital with a c-section.
Now with my water broken I knew I was on the clock as another rule/regulation about birth is you “need” to have antibiotics after 12 hours of broken water and transferred to the hospital after 24 hours of broken water, in the state of Florida. Each state has its own laws/rules.
I remember feeling sad and irritated, like really, my birth had to start with broken waters and no contractions?
I spent the day walking, squatting, meditating, talking to my baby, rubbing clary sage essential oil on my belly and asking for guidance. Finally, around sunset, after a long walk with my kids and my ex, I started to have nice good contractions and I knew I was in labor.
When we got home, I called my midwife and asked her to come. Before she arrived I had a gush of water come and I didn’t want to keep stepping in it so I asked my mom if she would get me some towels. She brought me towels and then never left the room, and I just wanted to ask her to leave, and then felt guilty doing so and I was in this internal conflict. I never asked her to leave and she sat on the floor in the dark praying and I just felt her energy. I would try to escape by going into the shower. My labor was becoming really intense and painful. I was tense, my mind was running, I couldn’t just let go.
After 4 hours of being at 9 cm and so tense I finally asked to go to the hospital. I knew this baby was never going to come out if I couldn’t relax. As soon as I received an epidural my little Pi was born on 3.14 weighing 10lbs 10oz.
I did a video on his birth that you can watch below, after the birth I share about my experience of the Fear-Tension-Pain Syndrome (Childbirth Without Fear, Grantly Dick-Read) and why many women are unable to let go and give birth.
Inside I felt happy I birthed my big boy vaginally and on another level I felt grief and sadness that I did not have the birth I desired and I knew the reasons why. I lost trust in myself, my body’s innate wisdom and I was unable to say no to a loved one who wanted to witness my birth.
The day Pi was born I felt my journey in Miami was complete. When Pi was 8 days old we flew back to California where I stayed with my family for 4 months. Again another healing endeavor. My older brother was also living with my parents and his two little girls. For the first time since childhood we were all under the same roof. Like many families we had our pain and struggles growing up. We all had grown, matured and expressed our desire to have a better more loving relationship with one another. One where we all would accept each individual with our differences and live a deeper love.
At this time I thought I was going to move back to California for a while and settle in so I booked a ticket to Hawaii where I could gather my items from storage and sell my car.
Quickly after landing and settling in, I knew I was not going anywhere. I was back in my heart’s home and I was feeling so full. I was living again! Things kind of went back to normal, women were continuing to come to give birth and I finished the documentary series I had been filming Imagine Our World Happy, Healing Through Dolphins, Pregnancy and Childbirth.
When Pi was a year and a half we went back to California and I went on a Shamanic Journey. This was my second journey and each was life transforming. The first one happened after I got out of the hospital, before I took the great leap and moved to Hawaii without anything. This next journey shifted my life again, I was completely humbled to life and reassessed all that is important to me and my family.
By this time I technically had 3 children with 3 different fathers. After my first experience of marriage and raising a child, I wanted to simply do it on my own. We had not taken the time or thought process into planning our immediate future after our child was born and we had many different ideas of life, relationships, roles, parenting... My second baby was conceived shortly after filing for divorce, and her father quickly left the picture when I was a few months pregnant…the father of my first born came to Hawaii for her birth and we rekindled our relationship for a year and a half. This is when I ended up in the hospital.
With Pi, his dad lived on Maui, and I knew I would have the ability to birth and raise him the way I wished because his father was very open and supportive of the love and appreciation of motherhood. He respected me and accepted all the decisions I made. But now I felt ready for a relationship and family. Part of the Shamanic Journey healed my past romantic relationships, parental relationships and my relationship with the masculine. I created a post journey mandala with a man by my side, and I was rooted into the earth with fetuses inside of me.
Within a few weeks of returning to Hawaii I met my life partner. Our souls were instantly connected and we spent time getting to know one another. We both had 3 children and he was currently going through a divorce. In some ways our lives were very stressful and in others we were flying high in love. Within a couple of months we were pregnant with baby 7 to us, my 4th. We moved in together and focused finding our way in a blended family.
My pregnancy was enjoyable for the most part and this time I did not share it with the world. A lot of my energy was going inward and focusing on the baby and our large family. I would substitute teach at my children’s Waldorf School and stay at home with Pi on days I wasn’t teaching. I was deeply on an internal journey and navigating my way through our “complicated” family life.
Once again my mother wanted to come “support” me during my birth and the time after and this time I felt the courage to tell her that I prefer she was not in the room when I gave birth. She arrived on my son’s due date and once again my little boy decided to come 2 weeks late with broken waters being the first sign of labor. Instantly, I knew this was my opportunity to heal my last birth experience. I created a mantra of three words Smooth, Peaceful and Gentle. I also chose not to film this birth. I wanted to be completely free of any thoughts or feelings.
I called Brandon, my life partner, and let him know. I wanted to go for a walk down at the beach and soak in the sun, the sand, the water, all of the elements the island offers. We walked and talked holding hands. Brandon organized his kids to be picked up and I asked my mom to pick up my kids. I simply stayed in the bedroom by myself and asked Brandon to tell everyone to leave me alone. I wanted to simply be by myself. The evening passed and I assumed labor would kick in after everyone went to sleep. All the kids had a sleepover in the living room, freeing up our bedroom.
After bed Brandon started to blow up the birth pool for me, so it would be ready when I wanted it. This loud unnatural noise immediately stopped all contractions. I laid in bed a little irritated and tried to drift to sleep to get some rest, but my mind was determined to have this baby now that the kids were to sleep, so I got up and took Brandon on a walk with me outside. After about 45 minutes without a change I gave up and headed back to bed.
I fell asleep and around 2 am my midwife messaged and asked how I was doing. I was still a little annoyed that I wasn’t having strong consistent contractions but the contractions I was having felt like they were really doing something. She came over around 4 am and we spoke a little about maybe trying to stimulate labor with some oils or herbs. I asked her to check me first, because I felt that the contractions were creating progress even though I was not following the “typical labor pattern”. Sure enough I was 7 cm. This brought great relief and I decided to lay down again. As my body continued to relax into a deeper sleep, I was suddenly woken by a contractions that got me out of bed instantly and I told Brandon fill the tub.
He went to the other room to get my midwife and they started filling the tub. By this time I was doing my labor dance in the bathroom, squatting deep and hanging over a railing, humming my mantra. I desperately wanted to get into the water but it was only ankle deep, and I knew it would not provide the environment I was desiring, so I stayed out for a few more contractions until I couldn’t wait any longer. I climbed in and asked Brandon to gently put the warm water hose on my lower back, as I hung over the side of the birth pool.
My midwife climbed into the pool with me squeezing my hips together during these strong contractions providing some tension relief and within minutes my son’s head was born, following was his body at 5;55 am, just as the sun was rising. I flipped over in the tub and held him on my chest saying we did it, we did it, we did it, I love you I love you I love you.
My mom and all the kids were welcomed into the room just after I gave birth to the placenta. They still had the experience of feeling the fresh energy of natural birth. The hormones were still flowing all around.
It was later that day that I apologized to Brandon for telling him to stop everything he was trying to do to help me. They were kind and loving gestures, like gently rubbing my face or back and I would take his hand off and simply say stop. I explained to him during birth all of that is distracting and inhibits the birth process, especially in that stage of labor. I knew he was trying to be loving and I honored that and appreciated the gesture but it was not the right time for me.
This is when it became clear how disturbed women are in their natural birth process. It is hard enough for a woman to fight the battle for a natural birth, whether at home or in the hospital. Birth has become managed with rules, regulations, laws…all that strip women from their innate knowing that their bodies are born to give birth. Women have been taught they need someone to take care of them and deliver their baby. They need support, or a coach, or a doula, or someone who knows more than them. In a way it take responsibility away from the birthing mom freeing her the experience itself. And this really bothered me. Why have we (women) allowed others to take away our rite to birth the way we desire, why have we been stripped of this empowering right of passage, and why are so many women choosing not to experience natural birth, whether it is at home or in the hospital.
I researched the culture of birth and how and why birth became a procedure to be performed in the hospital where it can be managed in case something goes wrong. It was a combination of many things which you can find on the Primal Birth page, but this is what inspired me to help women change our culture of birth and to start taking responsibility for ourselves and our future.
The way babies are being born today are affecting the health and happiness of ourselves, our children and our future.