An interview with birthworker Brittany Revo
One of my first challenges as a mother was going back to work. The process of hiring a babysitter was terrifying. I never wanted an employee in my home, I wanted someone who felt like an extension of the family and would shower my baby Kiran with as much love as I do. Enter the scene, Brittany Revo.
Brittany supported my family from the time Kiran was 6 months to 2 years old. She was there for teething, weaning, potty-training, and the stress of mommy going back to work. I remember the day Brittany told me she decided to train as a doula. I had two thoughts run simultaneously in my head: “Omg, she is going to be so good at this!” and “Oh no, she is going to leave us!” But she never left where it counts …now Kiran has an extra auntie and uncle (shoutout to her husband Alex) and baby cousin Lucille Juniper Revo.
I loved conducting this interview so much. Brittany has such a wealth of wisdom and experience and is joining us today to share the story of her pregnancy and home birth. I hope her grounded approach to the transcendental experience of pregnancy and labor comforts you during this magical and tender time.
Can you introduce yourself?
I’m Brittany Revo – a full spectrum birth worker and new mom. I believe that pregnancy is a pathway to transformation: that in the process of bringing a new human into the world, parents and caregivers can experience a rebirth alongside their little ones. I am also a budding herbalist and love inventing my own original medicinal tea blends. When I’m not reading or nursing my daughter, you can find me seeking out sunshine or enjoying a vegan donut.
Tell us about your history with meditation?
I’ve been meditating on and off since I discovered yoga in 2009. I have had stretches of daily practice and periods where I’m off my game. When I’m practicing regularly, meditation gives me a sense of inner harmony that makes me less reactive to daily stress.
How did meditation support you during pregnancy?
Throughout my pregnancy, I believed that my body and baby knew exactly what they were doing. I fundamentally believe that labor is a sacred journey that the human body is designed to take. But I still noticed anxious thoughts arising in my mind. I think it’s only natural, especially for first time mothers, to worry or want to do more. Tuning into my breath allowed me to surrender to the process. It helped me stay grounded as I walked into the unknown.
How did you find Expectful?
As a doula, I’m always compiling resources to offer to my clients to support them through pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Expectful is something I suggest when people mention feeling nervous or wanting to connect more with their baby. It was one of the first tools I used when I found out I was pregnant.
How did Expectful fit into your meditation practice?
Expectful was my meditation practice! Outside of a few mantras that I would chant on my own, I turned to Expectful when I was feeling disconnected from my body, or when I needed help turning inward, or when I woke up at 3am to use the bathroom and couldn’t go back to sleep.
What are some of your favorite Expectful meditations?
“Trusting The Body” and “Connecting With Your Baby,” as I moved closer to my due date (and then past it!) I often listened to “Releasing Expectations” before bed.
What do you like about Expectful?
I like that there are a variety of different categories of meditations and time options. Sometimes I had space for a long 20 minute meditation, and sometimes I just had a few minutes before meetings where I wanted to tune into my body and connect with my baby.
Throughout your pregnancy, how did you prepare yourself physically and emotionally, for your home birth?
I did a lot of walking. Many New Yorkers do, but I regularly walked 6-8 miles a day chasing two toddlers around. I was providing child care in addition to my birth work, so I was pretty active. I also did some yoga and dance classes. Some days my body asked for movement, and some days it asked for rest, and I tried to honor its requests. To manage my emotions, I wrote about my feelings, talked to friends who had been pregnant before, and took a lot of baths. I also did my best to eat nourishing foods.
Tell us about your birth story.
My birth story is one of patience, perseverance, and triumph. I labored at home for 56 hours before birthing my daughter at the foot of our bed. My husband was by my side for the entire time, as was my doula Lis. She joined us around 7pm on Sunday evening and didn’t leave until 7pm on Tuesday!
I couldn’t sit down or lie flat without pain so to rest, I alternated between leaning against a wall or meditating in the birth pool. I danced and chanted my way through the night, trusting that my baby and body were working together.
Our midwife Robina came by Monday morning. I had a cervical exam that snapped me back to reality – I was still in early labor! I had an acupuncturist come Monday night- she did needles, gua shua (massage with a jade tool) and moxibustion to help get my contractions into a more regular pattern.
When I reached 9.5cm dilated, I started pushing. I had a minor cervical lip but we thought my midwife could move it out of the way with some contractions. Instead it began to swell and baby’s heart showed that they were annoyed. I had to take a break from pushing. To support the baby, I was instructed to do a sequence of position changes. My midwife gave me homeopathic medicine, a catheter, and an IV of fluids. We contemplated transferring to a hospital, but I knew that wasn’t what I wanted. Given how pregnant I was (42 weeks and 1 day) plus the fact that I’d been laboring for 2 days and the baby had passed some meconium, I felt like a hospital would send me straight to a belly birth.
My husband and I decided to take a shower and go for a walk. I held back pushing during contractions (which were coming every 2-3 minutes), lunging deeply with each contraction and repeating to myself, “My cervix is gone. My cervix is gone.” It started to rain pretty hard, so we headed back inside. After about 30 more minutes of laboring, my midwife checked my cervix again- the lip was gone! The baby slid down deeper into my birth canal, and even though there was a lot of work ahead of me, I knew my baby was going to be born at home. I ignored my contractions until they snuck up on me and I had to push. About two hours later, my daughter was born at the foot of our bed.
I keep thinking back to that mantra “My cervix is gone.” I am still in awe of the power of mindfulness and manifestation can transform a difficult situation.
Did being a doula shape your pregnancy and labor experience?
Yes! I had the resources and tips for any pregnancy ailments that came up. I was aware of what is normal and what is not, and I had a big community of people I could call upon when I needed a second opinion or just wanted to talk about what I was going through. I also had a birth bag already prepped with pain management tools and things I might want or need during labor. When it was time for labor, I worked to take off my “doula hat” and leave that part of the process to my own doula. I wanted to be as present in my body and the experience as possible.
How did your meditation practice influence your labor experience?
It allowed me to drop more fully into my experience. The first half of labor was a very psychedelic experience, where I was fully in my body and present for each and every surge. As time passed and I got more exhausted, I had to step out a little to reserve energy- but I think meditation also helped me to do that.
Did you meditate during labor?
I chanted a Sanskrit mantra that I came across in Baba Ram Dass’s “Be Here Now” while 41 weeks pregnant. I had read the book many times before, but for some reason this stuck out to me as brand new. The mantra goes, “Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha” which is the Heart Sutra. It has a few different interpretations, but in the Ram Dass’s book it’s translated as “Gone, Gone, Gone Beyond, Gone Beyond Beyond, All Hail the Goer”.
What was it like laboring at home? What don’t we know about home birth?
I was so grateful to labor at home. I was in a comfortable space, with only people I invited in, in control of all lights and sounds and smells. We know that when most pregnant animals go to give birth, they find a dark, quiet, comfortable place where they can labor and birth undisturbed. I gave birth during the day, but I kept the lights low and played music that helped me tune out the noisiness of New York.
Many people think home births are only for “crunchy hippies” or something of the sort, but they’re really for anyone who wants to be in control of their body and wants more room to trust in the process of labor and birth- not to say that can’t happen in a hospital, I’ve seen it, but it’s a lot more work with the machines and noises and strangers popping in and out of your birthing space.
Home birth also doesn’t mean unmedicated- you can’t get an epidural, but midwives are medically trained and able to support different needs. During labor, I received an IV of fluids (because I was vomiting a lot and we were concerned about dehydration), two rounds of antibiotics, and a catheter (to attempt to empty my bladder fully in case it was in baby’s way). I also received a shot of Pitocin after birth to prevent postpartum hemorrhage.
How did you get through 56 hours of labor? What were some key things that kept you going during such a long labor?
I used movement a lot and leaned on my husband and doula, both physically and emotionally! Essential oils (lemongrass was very uplifting!), water and music were also helpful tools. I also reminded myself that every minute that passed was a minute closer to baby, and surrendered to the promise that all labors end eventually.
What are the things you couldn’t or didn’t prepare for during labor?
I knew that a long labor was a strong possibility, but there was no preparation for the reality of 56 hours! I used all my tools, drank a lot of water and a little bit of broth and occasionally ate an energy ball and some honey, but it really was just surrendering that baby knew the perfect time to be born. There was also no preparing for her funky positioning- her arm was around her neck so her elbow pressed on the front of my uterus, which is why I couldn’t sit or lie down.
In addition to meditation, what other tools or practices did you connect with to support you during your pregnancy?
I have an oracle deck that I purchased while newly pregnant that I used to connect to my unborn baby. We had a small altar on their changing table and I would keep the card I pulled up there until I felt drawn to pull a new one. It genuinely felt like these messages came from baby through spirit and it was a really special way to let the baby guide me into connection.
What’s it like now that you are a new parent?
It’s a learning experience every day. We’re one month into parenthood and slowly starting to find our new normal. My showers are shorter, my shirts are stickier, and my sleep comes in chunks- but it is such a privilege and honor that this little soul chose us to be her parents.
What are the things you couldn’t or didn’t prepare for in postpartum?
How hard it is, even if you think you’re prepared. As a doula, I worked hard to set myself up for success- I had two weeks of in-home support, cooking and cleaning and walking the dog thanks to my wonderful Mom! I was mentally prepared for breastfeeding and fragmented sleep, and yet the baby blues still hit me hard- the hormonal drop after pregnancy ends is real!
What are three things you want every pregnant person to know?
- You deliver your baby- no one else does. Even in the event of a belly birth, it is courageous to lie down your body for birth and that is your delivery.
- This is your birth and you are in charge- if you don’t like your care provider or the birth statistics at your hospital, find a new one.
- Trust your instinct. With Google and mommy bloggers, there’s way more advice available than any new parent actually needs. Find two or three friends whose parenting styles align with your intentions and turn to them in times of need, but otherwise trust your parent gut- it usually knows best.
Would you change anything about your birth story?
I wouldn’t. I’d love for my next one to be shorter, but I really feel like all the ebbs and flows of our story are exactly what they were supposed to be. The highs and lows made it that much more victorious in the end. I had surrender again and again but I still got the home birth I planned for and dreamed of.
What would you tell someone who is afraid of birth but wants to experience it?
Examine what you’re afraid of- is it the pain? The unknown? The loss of control? Then come up with a plan for managing those fears. I also recommend reading birth stories that align with the birth you’re aiming to have, whether that’s an unmedicated home birth or a planned hospital induction.
I cannot stress enough the importance of a good birth team. Mine made me feel seen, heard, and capable at all times. I may have been the only one capable of bringing this baby earthside, but I could not have done it without my husband, doula, and midwifery team.
Any thoughts or feelings that have taken you by surprise since the birth?
I had really high expectations for myself that served no one. I knew that being a doula and childcare provider was not the same as being a parent, and yet I was disappointed in myself for struggling. Letting go of those expectations helped me get a better grip on reality.
About Brittany Revo
For more on Brittany’s journey you can follow her on instagram @revolutionarybirth. It’s a snapshot on mindful parenting in the tender fourth trimester, and it’s also a helpful place to learn more about medicinal tea, social justice, non-violent communication and spirituality. To learn more about her birthwork services, visit her website at revolutionarybirth.com.