89. The Informed Pregnancy Podcast Ep. 356 Rumer Willis: After Birth
Elliot: Welcome back to the Informed Pregnancy and Parenting Podcast. I'm your host, pregnancy-focused chiropractor, Dr. Elliot Berlin.
You’ve tuned in to the “after” episode of a before and after birth story. My guest today was about 34 weeks pregnant last time we spoke to her. Now, she’s the proud mom of a bouncing baby. Rumer Willis, welcome back to the podcast.
Rumer: Thank you so much for having me again.
Elliot: I’m excited. I don’t really know the details of your birth story, so I’m excited to find them out with everybody else. But also, last time I spoke to you, things have changed a lot. First of all, your kitchen is probably finished.
Rumer: Yes. Thankful that construction in our house is done. That was very stressful, trying to make it all happen. I’m very grateful that it all came together before I wanted to have my home birth and it ended up happening, so I’m delighted.
Elliot: The nest. The nest was ready. Okay. Last time I spoke to you, you’re about 34 weeks. It seemed like you found pregnancy as much as you loved it and wanted it, and it was your life calling. It seemed like you found pregnancy to be difficult.
Rumer: You know what’s funny, is now looking back on it, I’m like, “Man, that was so easy.” Comparatively, to some other friends that I’ve heard of.
Rumer: Who have shared their stories with me. I realized I think because everything was so new. My sisters and I were talking even during my labor. It’s like, pain was no context, or it’s all of these new sensations but you have no context. You have no idea what’s happening. Everything when it happens seems kind of huge. But then, you just get used to it. The first time that I had my sciatica leg pain, I was like, “Oh, my gosh. I’m dying. Do I have a blood clot in my leg? What’s happening?” when I was four months pregnant. And then, by the end, I’m walking around the grocery store with my left leg on fire, but I’ve just gotten used to it. And so, I think I realized that it was just maybe being a little bit over dramatic at times.
Elliot: Well, maybe you didn’t expect it, and its sensations you never felt before.
Rumer: Yeah. I think emotionally, for me, was more challenging sometimes than the physical aspects. I think, physically, I had an incredible pregnancy. My legs didn’t swell. I truly, literally, just had a beach ball in my tummy. I didn’t really have any of those other things that some people struggle with. Maybe again, it’s that classic trip of after you’ve had the baby, you just forget. You forget your labor pain. You forget all the hard things so that the only way that people would actually have more kids.
Elliot: “I’d do it again,” yeah. How was the last month or so of pregnancy?
Rumer: It was challenging, but also so exciting. Because you just get to that point where it becomes really real and you’re just so excited to meet this little one. But then, even though my doula and my midwife both kept telling me, “Your due date is not real. Don’t listen to it. Don’t think about it like it’s the actual day that she’s going to come.” When it comes and goes, you still kind of go, “Oh, man. Okay, I’m really ready to have this baby out. I really want to meet this little person.”
Elliot: Yeah. I heard my wife say that. It’s more like the sell-by date, than the use-by date.
Rumer: Exactly. This might be woo-woo for some people, but you have to trust your kid’s timing. Maybe there’s a certain astrology thing that they want to come in on. Maybe there’s a particular day that they want to be born on and they’re waiting for it.
Elliot: Yeah. Even scientifically, the birth window called “term” is a five-week window from 37 to 42 weeks. There’s varying degrees of term. There’s “early term” term like term, but it’s not pre-term. Like those preemie babies before 37 weeks, or post-term after 42 weeks. So that’s a pretty big window. I think nature is not exact like that even if I’m baking cookies and it says 24 minutes. I’m going to wait till they’re fully baked even if it’s 25 minutes because I like it a little soft inside, but not a gooey center. Nobody wants a baby with a gooey center.
Rumer: You want them to be fully cooked.
Elliot: Yeah. It sounds like it was more of a mind challenge as you got closer, and then passed your due date.
Rumer: Yeah. It was, so much. A lot of my birth actually was so much mental, and was so much about overcoming my own fear, and so much of my own roadblocks rather than any roadblocks that were put in front of me, physically. I mean, obviously, yes, doing an unmedicated home birth is certainly a challenge in its own right, but so much of it was my own fear and the things that were holding me back.
Elliot: After you went past your due date, were you able to surrender into it? Did you feel sort of compelled to do things to try to help move the process along?
Rumer: I was doing everything. I was eating all the pineapple. I was eating all of the dates. I was trying to have sex. I was trying to do pretty much everything in every book that you could ever find. But, I think it was kind of a test from the universe and just patience. And also, trusting her again and just being okay with whatever timing was going to be right for her and not trying to rush.
Elliot: With all those things that you were doing, did you feel like any one of them was particularly helpful?
Rumer: Well, I thought that I was going into pre-labor at 36 weeks. Because I had my baby shower, and then I had gone out to a party and was out until 4 o’clock in the morning on my feet. My baby was super low. I’m calling my midwife, freaking out, because you can’t have a home birth before 37 weeks. And so, they’re trying to get me to do everything possible to kind of stop my labor. I guess it wasn’t totally really pre-labor. I think I was just having really crazy Braxton Hicks, which I did for pretty much 36 weeks till the end of my pregnancy. Like, all day long.
Elliot: Oh, wow.
Rumer: It was pretty wild.
Elliot: I imagine it also plays a mind trick on you thinking that, “Oh, it must be coming because I’m having contractions.”
Rumer: All the time. Yeah. Especially as you’re getting closer and you’re going, “Okay. What’s this new sensation?” Because again, you have no context for what real labor will feel like. Even though someone can say to you, “Just trust me. You’ll know when you’re actually in labor.” In your head, you’re going, “Okay. Well, but maybe this is. This kind of feels stronger,” or “This feels intense.” But, they were right. When you’re actually in labor, it’s very different.
Elliot: Let’s get to there. How did your labor start, and how far past your date were you?
Rumer: I was 40 plus five, I think. I went to the farmer’s market. When I got home, I realized that one of my cats was out.
Elliot: Like, escaped?
Rumer: Yes, had escaped through a window. Because the construction that we had going on were painting in the nursery, and someone had left a window open. And so, I got back and I’m freaking out. I’m just going, “Oh, my gosh. If my beloved cat is gone and she doesn’t have her collar on, I was like I’m going to freak out.” She dies, like there’s coyotes. She’s a goner. I’m walking up and down the street, can’t find her. I call my partner, I say, “You have to come home. You have to help me find the cat.” He pulls up in his car. It’s about maybe 30 minutes later. I walked down the street and I see her maybe four or five houses down. I go sprinting full speed, fully nine months pregnant.
Elliot: Oh, my gosh.
Rumer: I’m going faster. He’s driving next to me, and I’m just running faster than the car. I scoop her up and bring her home. Around 4 a.m., I started having contractions like five minutes apart-ish. My doula came over. I think I lost my mucus plug at like 6 a.m.
Elliot: So, your doula came over means that that felt different to you than all the Braxton Hicks you had leading up to.
Rumer: Yeah. She didn’t come over that night. This is — fine with you, guys. I called her and I said started to feel things ramp up a little bit. So then, Monday morning, I went into Dr. Crane’s office to see if I was dilated, see if I had anything going on. I was half a centimeter dilated and 30% effaced, so nothing really going on. But, the baby at least had gotten a lot lower because I had been swimming at my mom’s house for a while, trying to get the baby to stop my contractions before when I was 36, 37 weeks and she had lifted way back up. And so, now, all of these things to try and get her back down.
Elliot: Back down to your pelvis.
Rumer: Yeah. I went home after I went to see Dr. Crane, and I was a bit discouraged because I was just so, so ready to kind of just get everything going. So, I go and I take a walk with my boyfriend, and we walked quite far actually. We went on a hike and I walked. That night is when things kind of really kicked off. That’s when about 4 a.m., I think my doula got there. My whole family was there. My mom and my two sisters had come over. Because I said I started thinking that something might be going on, even though that’s something I feel like I was saying every day towards the end.
Elliot: Wait, so they were over before you went to bed?
Rumer: Yeah. Because I don’t know I just wanted them here. I think I was feeling like, “Oh, man. This is kind of getting real throughout the day.” I felt like my contractions had been getting a little bit more intense, and we’re all just kind of a crazy tribe anyway.
Elliot: All right. Sunday, you sprint for the cat. Monday, baby’s down but not much changed cervically. Did you guys talk about or do a membrane sweep?
Rumer: No, we didn’t.
Elliot: It was just not on your radar?
Rumer: No, because I really wanted to trust in her timing. If I had gone past or the things that were not progressing at like 41 plus five, something like that, then I would have done something. But, I really wanted to just let my body kind of do its own thing and not rush anything.
Elliot: Okay. Still, things started to pick up that day and you had your whole woman tribe come over.
Elliot: And then, you go to sleep, but wake up at 4-ish in the morning.
Rumer: Well, I was up.
Elliot: Oh, you never went to sleep?
Rumer: Not really.
Elliot: Okay. They just continued to pick up through the early hours of morning?
Rumer: Yeah. I’d gotten some body work that night. And then, I tried to rest a little bit but my contractions were just kind of coming what felt like to me more regularly. And so, I was in and out of the bath. I was talking to my sisters. And then, finally, at one point, everyone had gone to sleep and I was just in the bath by myself. I was like, “All right, here we go.” I tried to say a little prayer to myself, try to talk to my baby, and yeah. There’s a photo of me actually holding my mucus plug when it came out at 6 a.m., and I look like the happiest kid you’ve ever seen. Since I was just so excited that that meant something was actually going on. I was like, “Yes! Finally!” I know it. At least, means that something’s happening.
Elliot: It’s hilarious. Okay. Let’s take a little break. When we come back, we’ll find out how things progress.
Elliot: Welcome back. We’re talking to Rumer Willis, and things are picking up. I mean, you have your mucus plug, partial success and victory. You said one thing that triggered in my mind, which is that you were just saying a prayer and connecting with your baby. I know that when we talk during the pregnancy, that was something that you were hoping to work on. That you found it harder to connect during pregnancy than you thought you might.
Rumer: Yeah. I think before I knew she was a little girl, it just felt so kind of surreal. It still feels surreal sometimes when I look at her and I go, “I grew you. You’re mine.” It’s still high. I still sometimes can’t believe that I made this tiny little person.
Elliot: I feel the same. It never gets old. For me, it’s a little bit over 20 years, and it just never gets old. Like, the miracle of it is mind-boggling.
Rumer: I mean, I know everyone talks about it. But, truly, truly the love that you feel for this little person, I would do anything. Everything about her. Her little butt. I thought her poops or her spitting up would be gross to me, I love it all.
Elliot: It’s also weird. Because this is the person that gave you all that burning sciatica, and everything else, but still they come out and we love them with everything.
Rumer: Amazing. You know what? If I ever have moments where I’m going “Oh, man. My nipples hurt,” or she was having a hard time latching, or “I’m tired,” I stopped myself and I go, “But look at what I have. Look at this little being that I have wished and hoped for for so long.” That makes everything, even the sleepless nights or — mind you, I have like probably one of the easiest babies ever. I’m ridiculously lucky. She is glorious. It makes even any of the hard moments just, it doesn’t matter.
Elliot: Yeah. All right. Let’s get back into your story here. In the tub, you got the plug. The family’s over. Your doula comes over. Your doula is also your mentor, right? You did do the training with her?
Rumer: Yeah, Lori. Lori Bregman, who is incredible. My whole birth team, truly. These women that helped bring my little girl into the world safely, I will love them forever, forever.
Elliot: What does Lori do when she comes over?
Rumer: She wanted to just kind of, I think really see for herself kind of where I was at. See what I sounded like. See how consistent my contractions were because we actually started timing them. For a little while, during the night, they were probably five, six minutes apart. Not perfectly in that rhythm where you’re moving towards active labor, but definitely getting close. And then, I think I just got really tired, and so my contractions kind of stopped. And so, I slept for a little while. By the time I woke up in the morning — Lori stayed all night with us. By the time I woke up in the morning, they were more like 10, 15 minutes apart. I was so discouraged. I let all of that fear kind of come up. I started going to myself, “Oh, my gosh. If I have to do a whole ‘nother night of this, if this is going to be how long…” Just going into that kind of spiral that I think I understand why then a lot of women end up with an epidural, and going to the hospital. Because again, it’s pain with no context.
Elliot: Right. You have no idea where you’re on the map, on the timeline. Can you describe, do you remember what those contractions felt like overnight? Where did you feel them and what was the sensation like?
Rumer: I think that’s what was so confusing to me about them is that, when you’re feeling the Braxton Hicks, and people describe contractions. They go, “Yeah, your belly will squeeze.” You’re going, “Oh, well. My uterus is now almost to my rib cage, so maybe it will be painful in my whole stomach;” but it’s really not. My belly would tighten and that’s uncomfortable, but the pain, actual pain, was really in my lower, where you would experience period cramps.
Elliot: In terms of the intensity?
Rumer: Those I would say like a 5 or 6.
Rumer: I only say that because I know that the ones later were…
Elliot: You could say that in retrospect.
Elliot: Okay. So, a little discouraged in the morning, things have petered out and only picked up slowly. And then, what happens after that?
Rumer: Then, we all went to go take a walk, which was great. I come back and nothing’s really happening.
Elliot: We? All of you?
Rumer: Oh, yeah. My doula, my mom, my sisters, and my partner.
Rumer: I’m a Leo, so I like I love the group energy. I know some people would much prefer probably to birth alone, have it be quiet. I need the energy.
Elliot: You like the crowd.
Rumer: Okay. So, you come back, nothing. And then, Lori looks at me and she goes, “You know, I think I might go home.” I realized in that moment, that I am someone who loves to succeed and thrive under pressure. Because I tell you what, not five minutes later, all of a sudden, my contractions start picking up again. It’s like, my body and my mind went, “Well, I’m not doing this a whole another night again. She’s not going home. We’re doing this today. Let’s go.”
Elliot: Wow! You took the challenge.
Rumer: It just happened. And so, all of a sudden, they start coming in really intense. Maybe seven minutes apart. If that five to seven minutes apart, and way more intense. My midwife comes over around 4:00, and checks me. She says that I’m 100% effaced and 2 centimeters dilated. When I tell you, I started crying and sobbing with delight. I was so happy. Because I realized that everything that I had gone through the night before was just to get all of the effacement.
Elliot: Is this Tuesday now?
Rumer: This is Tuesday.
Elliot: At 4 p.m.?
Rumer: Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Elliot: Okay. To recap. You chase the cat on Sunday.
Elliot: Sunday night, nah. And then, Monday morning, baby’s down but not too much progress. Then, throughout the day, you feel progress. The whole tribe comes over. Some surges overnight. Then, you fall asleep. Nothing in the morning. Go for the tribe block. And then, Lori threatens, “Hey, I’m just going to go home.” You’re like, “blah, blah, blah” I mean, full gear.
Rumer: And then, I was sitting with everyone outside and I was just crying. I was just saying, “I don’t know if I can do this. This is the birth that I want. I want to do it at home, but I just don’t know if I can do it.” It was a really kind of this psycho-spiritual experience. Because I feel like the fear was so much more than just the fear of this experience. It was like everything I’ve ever been afraid of. All of the times that I thought, “Oh, I’m too scared,” or “I’m too much of a weenie to do big scary things.” I feel like I heard Hillary actually say on this podcast when she was saying, “I’m afraid, but I can do big scary things.” I think it was her. I could be wrong, but yeah.
Elliot: I think so too.
Rumer: I just kept remembering that. I kept thinking to myself, I’ve always looked at myself like, “Oh, I’m just such a fraidy cat,” or “I don’t know if I can do this.” And so, I think I was working through that old lens of perception that I had of myself.
Elliot: Because you have your whole crowd around you. Are there things that people are saying or doing that are helping you sort of combat that, or tone those voices down?
Rumer: Honestly, a lot of it was just when I would have a contraction, I would kind of talk to myself. I would say, “It’s okay that you’re afraid. It’s okay that this is a big scary thing. It’s okay that you’re afraid.” I just started like talking to my little girl. Not my daughter, but like the little version of myself. Trying to just let her know that it’s okay that she was scared. The birth is scary. That birth can be beautiful, and it can be so many different things. It can also be scary to not know what’s going on. And so, I kind of just let myself cry. Whatever emotion was coming forward during each surge in contraction, I just let it come forward. And then, my midwife left. We were all chatting for quite some time. She left. And then, at around 6:00, I got into the bathtub. My doula to put me on the peanut ball for a while, which is like the seventh circle of hell.
Elliot: Oh, you didn’t like it?
Rumer: Oh, my God. Doing contractions where you cannot move, to me like I 100% understand why women who have to be on their backs or in a hospital and not move, end up with an epidural. Because if I hadn’t been able to move through my contractions, and really like glow with them, there’s no way.
Elliot: Wow. Okay. The idea was she was trying to get you a little bit more open?
Rumer: Yeah, and help the baby move down into the right position. Because she was a little high. By the way, my water still had not broken.
Elliot: Oh, interesting. Okay. So, 4 p.m. is when you’re 100% and 2 centimeters. You were okay with your midwife leaving though.
Rumer: Yeah. Because everyone didn’t seem to think that anything was going to happen anytime soon.
Elliot: Okay. But, that didn’t like put you into the next cure?
Rumer: I think maybe it did a little bit. I trusted that she would come back when it was go time.
Elliot: Okay. And then, 6:00, you get in the tub.
Rumer: Yeah. 6:00, I got into my bathtub. The contractions were getting really intense. Like, getting to that point where it’s overwhelming pain. The best way I could describe it was — I had a few of them where it just feels like that kind of pain where you feel like you can’t breathe and you’re it makes you kind of it takes your breath away.
Elliot: In that tub?
Elliot: Because a lot of people feel like the tab sort of helps calm them or ease some of the discomfort. Did you not have that experience?
Rumer: It absolutely does. But, what I realized is I was in so much fear still, and I was bracing, and I wasn’t working with my surges. I wasn’t working with the contractions because I was just holding on so tight. I wasn’t really letting myself just work with him. And then, I don’t know what happened, what came over me. In the bathtub, I start moving in the water. I don’t know, some sort of sexual mermaid or something. I don’t even know. Just kind of like moving my body. Using the whole wave of the contraction and moving my whole body with the wave. I was holding under the sides of the tub and literally, moving my hips around doing all of that. Suddenly, everything shifted.
Elliot: That was just the instinct?
Elliot: Okay. Shifted how?
Rumer: I somehow started moving with the contractions. It took away so much of the pain. I mean, they were still intense. But, it was like, I let go. I actually let myself surrender to the experience to what was happening. My body, it was like it just downloaded what to do.
Elliot: Wow. Is anybody with you at that point?
Rumer: Yeah. I think my sisters had gone to the grocery store to get supplies, and tasty snacks, and treats. It was my mom, my doula, and my partner.
Elliot: Wow. Okay. Well, I think that sometimes you can see that transition where you’re biting your surges, and it looks kind of violent. And then, at some point, you relax into one or two, and you realize, “Oh, wait a second. This is okay.” When you start to surrender to them, it just almost looks peaceful all of a sudden.
Rumer: It’s beautiful. My family took videos, and it looks unbelievable. I look like I’m some sort of synchronized swimming, or like a mermaid. It’s great.
Elliot: Okay. And then, I don’t know, for some people, that’s where time just disappears.
Rumer: It really did. That was around like 6:30 maybe, 6:00, 6:30. So then, after a while, I got out of the bath. I got into this rhythm with my partner, where I was laying on the floor, I had a pillow under my head, a blanket on top of me, and a peanut ball between my legs in between the contractions. We got it down to this system where I would say, “Okay, babe.” And then, I would go from laying on my side, he would pull the blanket off, pull the peanut ball out. I would get on my hands and knees. I would start moving in kind of figure eights. Sometimes, either my doula or my partner would be shaking. That was a lifesaver. For anyone who wants to try that, someone just shaking your butt and your hips, is like a heavenly thing during a contraction of birth. We were doing that for I don’t know maybe 45 minutes to an hour. And then, I started feeling like I needed to push, which was crazy. Literally, all of a sudden, when I would have a contraction, my body literally just started doing that like, “Oh, my God” kind of thing.
Elliot: Ejection reflex.
Rumer: Is that what that is?
Elliot: I think so. You’re not consciously pushing.
Elliot: Your body’s just doing it.
Rumer: Yeah. My body literally just. And then, they were like, “Wait, wait, wait! We don’t know how dilated you are. Hold on.” It’s all they said. I’m going, “Okay. I’m fine.” You just have that moment. I was trying not to push too hard, but a little bit. And again, my water still has not broken at this point.
Elliot: Oh, yes. Okay. You’re just on the floor, not in water.
Rumer: Yeah. I’m just on my hands and knees. We call my midwife and my doula like, “I think you need to come back. It’s like right now.” She gets there. I would say maybe like 25 minutes. My doula had been looking at my purple line. For those of you that don’t know what that is, I am still a little bit unclear, maybe you can give more context. I guess you get a purple line down the back of your butt crack that sometimes people can look at and have an idea of how dilated you are.
Elliot: I have no idea.
Elliot: I’m not versed in the purple line.
Rumer: That’s what my doula at least told me.
Elliot: That’s interesting.
Rumer: Yeah. She said she thought that I had progressed a lot. My midwife gets here and checks me. She said that I was 8 centimeters. I dilated in maybe like an hour and a half from 2 to 8, which is why it was so crazy.
Elliot: Oh, wow. Okay. I feel like we should take a break. I need a break. We’ll be right back for the rest of the story.
Elliot: Welcome back. We are talking to Rumer Willis. Things are picking up big time in your birth story. In the tub, you start to kind of just naturally move. You find a rhythm. You feel more comfortable. You get out. You and your partner have a rhythm. And then, you suddenly feel like, “I’m pushing.”
Rumer: Yeah. I’m trying not to desperately. Because everyone’s like, “You got to wait. Hold on.” And so, my midwife comes back. I’ve been in the tub for maybe an hour or something. She checks me and I’m about 8 centimeters. I dilated from 2 to 8 in about an hour.
Elliot: Wow. Fast-moving train. Still water intact.
Rumer: Water still intact. We moved me into the birth tub. I was like, “I need to push. Can I?” She said that I should just listen to my body. And so, I started pushing a little bit. And then, she was checking me and felt my water bag bulging, but still not popping, which was wild. And so, I was like, “Well, should we break it?” “Do you want to break it?” She goes, “Well, you can.” I’m like, “What?” I was like, “Are you serious?” Okay. Because I reached my finger up there, and I’m feeling and it was crazy. I could totally feel this little bag.
Elliot: Like what? Like a Ziploc?
Rumer: It feels like a water balloon.
Elliot: Oh, wow.
Rumer: But, with like a bit tougher skin. It’s wild! And so, she just said, “Okay. On the next contraction, just push against it with your finger,” and I popped it. I think there’s a photo of me and I just have this look of shock and surprise on my face. Because it’s a different sensation when the water bag is pushing against your cervix to when the baby’s head is.
Elliot: Things got more intense.
Rumer: Yeah. I’m kind of making these wild noises like a lion. And then, everyone’s kind of reminding me to not waste the energy, and to really just do what I’m sure everyone says, which is just to use that power and push the noise down. And so, I’m doing that. At one point, I couldn’t do any of the contractions on my back. It felt so counterintuitive to me. It made it way more painful. Even in the tub, it just wasn’t working. It was all in my hands and knees. At one point, I remember I tried to lay on my back just because I wanted to rest in between. And then, during a contraction, everybody grabs my legs and I just started screaming at them. I was like, “No! Everybody get off of me. Let go!”
Elliot: It sounds like the sensation’s a lot different. Can describe what you’re feeling, either during the surges and also in between or with a push?
Rumer: Well, it feels like you’re incredibly constipated, and that you’ve found a toilet, and then you’ve started to try and poop. But, once the baby starts coming down, it’s like you can’t stop. Like you’re on the train. You can’t suddenly go, “Oh, I guess it’s not working right now. I’ll drink some water and try again later.” You know what I mean? It’s just so much pressure.
Elliot: Pressure, like in the rectum?
Rumer: Yeah. I would say rectal pressure, and then pressure on your cervix. Again, I think that there’s a weird memory wipe, like “Men in Black” that happens after you give birth.
Elliot: The flashy, flashy thing.
Rumer: Because I remember all of it. I remember all of the details. But, the physical sensation, some of it now is lost to me.
Elliot: Does it come back when you watch the video?
Rumer: Sometimes, yeah. I really remember the contractions, but the pushing — once you start getting to a certain pushing phase, it’s really just so much pressure and stretching. I was doing the same thing in the water that I was doing in the bathtub earlier, which was moving through my contraction. That was really helping. My midwife kept checking her heart rate, and it had dropped once. She said — because I’m also a first-time mom, she was like, “I think I’m going to have you get out of the tub.” Because I wasn’t getting enough leverage.
Rumer: I sat on a birth stool, which is not a stool. It is a piece of metal. I looked at her and I said, “Where’s the seat?” She said, “There is no seat.”
Rumer: I said, “Okay. Cool.” Because at that point, and I’m sure any mother knows if someone says, “Your baby’s heart rate’s dipping,” you’re like, “Cool. What do we got to do?” You’ll do anything. And so, I sit on this stool and I start pushing. My midwife is like, “Listen. It’s a really tight squeeze down there, so I’m going to have to help stretch your tissue.” At that point, I’m just like, “Okay. Cool.” It’s definitely not comfortable, but I just want to make sure she comes out safely. I had kind of had a feeling that it might be tight down there because I could just feel in the last couple weeks of pregnancy that the pressure from holding up the baby that all of my muscles and my pelvic floor had really tightened. I probably should have done a little bit more pelvic floor work earlier. I would highly recommend that to anybody in pregnancy, really just checking that out early.
And so, her heart rate dipped again. She was like, “Look.” She kind of just locked eyes with me and she said, “Listen. We need to get her out.” She said, “I can cut you.” I said, “Okay, listen. If that’s what you need to do for her to come out safely, then that’s fine.” And then, literally, I had a contraction. Her head was out with one push, and then her whole body was out with it.
Elliot: Oh wow. Okay.
Rumer: It’s like under pressure.
Elliot: “What? No. Here we go.”
Rumer: I was like, “Okay.”
Elliot: Oh, wow. So many questions. Were you fearful? Was that a scary moment?
Rumer: No. It was like I was in this other universe and I had just been transported to that place where I don’t even know. My doula, Lori, talks about it that when you are in transition and how you kind of just go to this other place. I think at that point it was like this warrior, mama, lion part of me came forward. It was like whatever I need to do, it didn’t matter. By the time I got on the stool, that’s the thing. Like, even her hands stretching me, anything. I feel like I had kind of moved past feeling the physical sensations of pain. I mean, yes, it was painful but I couldn’t even tell you that her head coming out was the most painful part. You know what I mean? I feel like the earlier contractions were more painful than that. Because at that point, you’re in it. You’re committed. Because I was so close to meeting my baby.
Elliot: Yeah. So, when her head came out, did you reach down and feel the head?
Rumer: It happened so fast, I couldn’t.
Elliot: It was like boom, head, body.
Rumer: Literally, it was like I pushed a little bit. Like, I pushed — well, I didn’t push a little bit. I pushed harder than I’ve ever probably, but it was literally like I pushed her head was out. I pushed again and her whole body was out.
Elliot: Oh, wow.
Rumer: Whole body was out.
Elliot: Oh, my gosh. Okay.
Rumer: There was no pause. There was no pause in between like, “Oh!” It wasn’t one of those moments where it was, “Oh, your head is out.”
Elliot: “Let’s wait for the next contraction.”
Elliot: It was like, “Boom! Boom!” Wow, that’s intense. I mean, do you remember the mind and or body experience right when you got to hold her?
Rumer: I mean it was incredible. My midwife and my partner caught her. It was the wildest thing. She had a cord wrapped around her neck, but it was also wrapped around her body in like almost like a prom sash.
Rumer: We had four hands under there, under the birth stool. I’m going, “Give me the baby. Give the baby.” It had wrapped around in this wonky way. They had to navigate for that.
Rumer: But then, as soon as they untangled her, she was in my arms. They had me hold her upside down for a second because there was a bit of meconium, the fluid that came out. After that, it was the most ecstatic, joyful moment of my entire life. I just started sobbing with joy. I have some of the most beautiful photographs of it of just me looking at her, and looking at my sisters, and looking at my mom and my mom holding me. My sister actually told me something later that I didn’t even realize I said. I looked at Louetta at one point, and I said, “I missed you so much.” I thought that was so sweet because it truly was like this moment of, “Oh, yes! We’re back together.”
Elliot: Oh, wow.
Rumer: It’s like, “Oh, yes. This person who I’ve known and I’ve been waiting for forever, here you are.”
Elliot: Wow. That’s so beautiful. I’m like tearful myself, trying to picture all the people around you must have been bawling, too.
Rumer: It was incredible. It was so powerful to have truly like such gratitude. The way that my mom, especially, just held space for me, and my sisters, and to have just this — and I love my partner. He was incredible the whole time. For me, because I’m so close with my family, to have this lineage of females, in this tribe of women around me bringing in the next generation, and being able to witness me going through that process and bringing her into the world was like something that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
Elliot: So beautiful. I remember you said something like the fact that your mom had three unmedicated births and that Lori kind of told you that that’s like your imprint now, that’s your ancestral imprint. And so, to have your mom there in the flesh also to back up that imprint, it just seems so amazing. All right.
In a nutshell, baby’s about five weeks old now. Lou. Lou and Rue, oh!
Rumer: Lou and Rue. I had to tell you one last thing because it’s pretty brilliant.
Elliot: Oh, anything.
Rumer: I thought so, at least. Here I am, I’ve just given birth to this tiny little girl. I step up off of the birth stool. Everyone’s like, “Okay. Here, go sit on the couch.” I go to try and sit down. I cannot it’s just still too much pressure. And so, I’m going, “Okay, guys. Hold on. I got to get up.” I literally have Louetta wrapped in a towel in one hand and I say, “I think I got to get the placenta out, you guys.” And so, before I can even sit down or do anything — and this is like maybe, I don’t know, two minutes, three minutes after she’s born; five at the most. I start walking back over to where the birth stool is, and I literally just pushed my placenta out into my hand. It comes out so fast and nobody knows what’s going on. One of my midwives literally just happened to be underneath to help me catch it. She was like, “Whoa! Whoa!”
Elliot: Wow! Okay. You didn’t even need to be challenged for that one.
Rumer: No. It was so nice though to have everything out of me. I couldn’t sit down until everything was out.
Elliot: It was such a cool — you got your mucus plug, you pop your water, caught your placenta.
Rumer: I mean it was very primal. It was like really feral.
Elliot: It sounds like it.
Rumer: It was really primal. I felt like I was connecting to this deep power in the core of my being that has always been there, but that I cut off access to a long time ago that somehow got activated during this experience because it was intense and wild and just magical.
Elliot: Yeah. I have two questions left in my mind. In a nutshell, I would just say the first five weeks of motherhood have been?
Rumer: Like the greatest gift of my life. I’ve never loved anything more in my life. She’s my favorite person. It’s challenging. Again, I feel like I’m saying this I realized that I am very privileged to be able, to take the time off to be able to spend with her. I know that that’s such a gift that not everyone has the ability to do and I’m so grateful. Because this time is unbelievable with her. Being able to exclusively breastfeed and that’s been going amazingly well, which I know that also some people struggle with. I feel like I have such an incredible support system of my family, and my partner, and my doula, and my midwife. I found someone who I didn’t have anyone help us at night or anything like that. But, I did have someone cook me a lot of Ayurvedic meals in the very beginning. That was super helpful just for my digestion, for hers. To not have to think about it, I would recommend that over anything else.
Elliot: It’s a good gift registry request. My last question was in hindsight, I guess it’s two parts. Is there anything you learn from doing it that you think, “I never could have learned until I did it.” Part B is if you were to do it again, is there anything that you would want to do differently?
Rumer: I think exactly, even what you said, that I just think that if I ever questioned myself again of, “Oh, I wonder if I can do this?” I had an unmedicated home birth and brought my daughter into the world. You know what I mean? Pop my own water bag. I did all of these things that are incredible. I brought this beautiful little girl into the world, at my house, with my family. I think I just faced so many fears that I feel like now, if I ever need a reminder it’s like, “You can do anything. Why are you questioning that?”
Elliot: Yeah. You saved the kitty.
Rumer: Yeah. I sprinted on the street, nine months pregnant.
Elliot: It’s interesting. I did do some work in emergency medicine, in ambulances. As a result, emergency rooms. A few times — I was young. I was 19, 20. A few times, I saw people at the end of life. Sometimes, even one case, a very young person. It’s interesting to see how in those instances, the last request was, “I want my mom.” I don’t think that ever goes away. Like, the insane way that you grow us. Women grow as in your body and bring us into the world, and all the nurturing that even happens before that bringing us into the world, through your body, and feed us with your body, and just that unconditional love that you have. Like, the anything you would do, and the power that you get, and now knowing that there’s nothing you can’t do. It’s the reason I get it. Mother’s Day is like a month the planning and everything under the sun, and Father’s Day is a tie. It makes sense to me.
Rumer: I think, to your second question. I feel like if I did it again, which I shouldn’t say if I’m definitely doing this again. Like, I’d do it again tomorrow. I think I would just remember to enjoy being pregnant. I miss feeling her kick inside of me. I really do. Even though there were moments of challenge physically and emotionally during pregnancy, now that I’m looking back, I love being pregnant. It’s amazing. This energy and this connection that you feel to this being, it’s such a privilege.
Elliot: It’s a paradigm shift. Well, a huge congratulations to you. I’m so happy for you and thank you for sharing your beautiful story with us. Probably, work seems like a million miles away, but you are working on some things. What can we expect from Rumer Willis in the near future?
Rumer: Well, I’d really love to share so much of the things, especially around pregnancy and motherhood that really supported me. I had an antacid that literally saved my life for the last three months, and I’m kind of creating a collection, and kind of going to create some guides to each trimester, and then postpartum. Just things that I want to share of my experience. I really want to create a community and a collective brain of motherhood. Similarly to kind of like what you’re doing to just share information. Because I think it’s so important. I think people used to do it so much. Especially with women, we all used to share information and share stories. It’s so important to be really honest and to share even the things that you think are gross or whatever it is, just in service of helping other people along the journey.
Elliot: Yeah. I remember there’s that book, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” I remember someone doing like a workshop called, “What to REALLY Expect When You’re Expecting.” Based on your description of pushing, I feel like you hold nothing back.
Rumer: No. You got to tell people the real deal.
Elliot: It’s awesome, yeah. There’s a lot of pieces in the puzzle of trying to help create that community and that flow of information, vital information, that people need. I’m excited that you’re joining the puzzle.
Rumer: Thank you so much.
Elliot: Where can we find you online?
Rumer: I would say on my Instagram, which is just my name.
Elliot: Rumer Willis. Instagram, @RumerWillis. I will see you there, or Dr. Berlin, @D-O-C-T-O-R-B-E-R-L-I-N.
Photo credit: Cristina King Photography