My Birth Story <3
All three of my mom's children came two weeks after their due dates, as did both of my aunt's kids, and all three of my grandmother's sons...so I was certain that my daughter, too, would arrive two weeks "late". (You know where this is headed, don't you?) Sure enough, a full 10 days before my due date, my first child Mariana was born.
The night before her birth, I tested the hose adapter that I'd purchased at the hardware store and wouldn't you know it, they gave me the wrong size. I told my husband, Jorge, that the baby couldn't come tonight because we wouldn't have any way to fill up the tub. We both laughed, sure that tonight wasn't the night anyway.
Two hours later, I jumped out of bed, literally, because I felt something running down my leg. I've experienced this moment many times before in my life, but not as a first-time mom. I've been working as a doula and apprenticing with a midwife for the past two years and I've been on the other end of the onset of labor many times. But when it was happening to me, I struggled with the reality that finally, I was about to experience labor firsthand.
Laying on my side, watching my husband sleep peacefully, I felt a huge rush of joy! I was overjoyed, giddy and so excited to feel what I've watched so many other women endure. When my first contraction began, I let it grow from my lower abdoment, burning up as it gained strength and breathed deep as it quickly passed. I talked to my body and the baby inside and told them, "This is it! Bring it on!" I asked my body to send the contractions faster, make them stronger - let's just get this thing going!
After hopping onto my computer and compiling mybirth play list, I called my midwife Paula; it was 1:30 a.m. Paula is so much more than just my caregiver. She is my close friend, mentor, and the same midwife who invited me to be her apprentice. I trusted her and Laura (another skilled midwife who works with Paula) so fully that I didn't spend any energy on worrying about my birth or my care. Ourphone call was brief, I knew what she hadto say: "Get some rest, call me if you can't sleep." So I tried resting between contractions, but mostly I kept running to the bathroom amazed at "nature's enema" and how efficient my body had become.
At 6:30a.m. I felt I'd waited long enough and gave Paula a call. "I've been waiting for your call" she said, sounding a little creepy, but I knew she was just excited. We talked and I knew she was listening for the signs in my voice, waiting to hear how I sounded during a contraction. "Well", she said, "call me when you need me, you're probably at 2 or 3 centimeters" I didn't want to tell her that I'd intentionally tried to sound tough during our phone call so she wouldn't think her own apprentice was a big birth wimp! But an hour later as I walked around my house making noises that I knew did not "sound" like 2 or 3 centimeters, I called and she said she'd be right over.
Jorge arrived home with the new hose adapter (who knew that hardware stores open at 7 a.m.!) thrilled that he'd had a big task to perform. He hooked that up while we waited for Paula. It was a long hour and I dealt with my contractions by walking through the house and moaning loudly, hoping that this wasn't 3 centimeters. I thought if she said 3 when she checked me, surely I would have to go and get an epidural and be known forever as the 'homebirth midwife apprentice who got an epidural!'.
When Paula pulled out her gloved hand and announced, "Honey, you're 8 centimeters and this baby is coming now", I was sure it was the happiest moment of my life! I walked up and down the hall with the next contraction, yelling loudly, "YES! YES! YES!" I was joyful, thrilled and also in awe that my body had fully taken over and knew what to do.
Jorge rushed to set up the tub while Paula called everyone to be sure they were on their way. I remember sitting in the tub listening as she told them to hurry because I was 8 centimeters dialated. I was saying to myself, "Not anymore!"
One by one the team arrived. I really felt like it was a team coming together and that we I was only one part of a big group effort. Laura, the midwife arrived, as did my friend Sara who had agreed to be the photographer (and who also covered her eyes and cried when I invited her to be at the birth.) I was eagery anticipating the arrival of my mom who had a three hour journey from my hometown. My mom had three drug free hospital births and instilled in me confidence that I could give birth easily and without any intervention. When she got there, I felt her, so calm and at peace, I knew everything was ready. As I looked around the room, I was surrounded by love and so much good energy. I heard Paula say that the new apprentice would arrive soon, but we had this great vibe in my purple room (I'd painted it the week before!) and I didn't want anything to disturb it. I thought hard before I spoke, but I soon voiced that though I didn't want to hurt feelings, I also didn't want anyone else in the room at that time. I am proud of that moment. It was a little difficult because as an apprentice I have been invited into so many births and I always wanted to return that favor. However, I knew that it was important to honor my instinct which told me that I needed to be surrounded by my husband, my mom and my friends and that that was okay. As women we are often so eager to please and be agreeable that it can be hard to voice one's true feelings, especially in birth when everyone's emotions are also running high. I am so lucky that everyone understood and didn't seem to judge me in any way. It gave me the strength and freedom to get through the next step: pushing.
I will never again in my days as a doula tell a client, "Ya'know, some women say it's a relief to push; that it feels good." This was so far from my experience that even if it's sometimes true, I won't be using that line. Paula checked me, told me I was fully dialated and freeto push, but when I tried I was shocked at how much pain I felt. It seemed counter-intuitive to me at the time. The only thing between me and my newborn baby was THAT painful? I couldn't believe it. I was really struggling mentally with this new challenge (contractions during dialation seemed easy compared to this!) I felt exhausted, sleepy and wanted to say, "Eh, forget about this birth thing, I'm going to go take a nap!" And though I did rest between contractions, eventually I knew I had to face the pain, feel the pain and as midwife Laura told me, just push through it.
I got out of the tub and onto the bed because I felt like I needed something new. That felt better and I was making better progress in my new spot. I'd always envisioned myself squatting as it seems like the most logical and quick way to get the baby out,so I got off the bed and squatted next to the tub. This was probably the low point of my labor. Squatting did not feel good, it didn't feel right, so I gave up on that dream and hopped back onto the bed. Still, determined to stay postive (it is an annoying habit of mine) I kept saying, "This isn't THAT bad! Women can do this!" Maybe I believed it, or maybe I was trying to convince myself.
Paula had been telling me that I was making good progress, but I swore she was just saying that so I wouldn't get discouraged. I really thought she was lying, so when they brought me a mirror and I could see the baby's hair during my pushes I was shocked! I highly recommend the mirror to all laboring moms. It gave me confidence in myself, renewed my energy, my excitement, and proved that I was making true progress with each contraction. I had that visual to aim for and I didn't experience the rest of the pushes as 'painful'. We were on a mission and I was so excited and ready to hold my baby. I loved the rests between contractions; it gave me time to talk and kiss Jorge and close my eyes and relax. When I felt the next contraction build, I said "Okay, people! Let's do this!" We really were a team!
But I was soon reminded that I was also totally on my own. With the baby's head nearly out, I said (yelled? demanded?) "Just take her out, Paula!", but she insisted I had to do this one myself. When the baby's head came out, it was such a relief, it physically felt good and it seemed like I was done! Paula and Laura worked at the cord, which was wound pretty tight around the baby's neck. But I wasn't finished and my most difficult push came next; I had to push her body out even though I didn't have a contraction to work with. OUCH, did that hurt but then the work really was over and there before my eyes was the sight I'd been waiting for 39 weeks to see. My little baby girl, on my belly looking up at me, clear and wide-eyed like 'what the hell just happened?' Jorge and I laughed and cried and talked to her; she cried right back at us and we've been celebrating ever since!
When I attend births and witness the many ways babies enter the world, often my heart will race and I'll feel the adrenaline race through my body. During my own birth, however, I never felt nervous or anxious, never worried about something bad happening. I am so lucky that I felt only complete trust in my body, my baby, and my care.