Recently, I read this great lady’s birth story, and it inspired me to write my own. I had a natural birth, a home birth, something you hear very little about in this day and age. Some people think it’s a crazy thing to do, and can’t understand why anyone would choose this, since hospitals are so much “safer.” Me, I felt so much safer at home. Hospitals scare me. They are for sick people. Pregnancy and childbirth are not illnesses. It probably helps that I was born at home, caught by my father. Knowing my mom could do it gave me confidence that I can, too.
I want people to know that birth without medical intervention is possible. Not always. I have many friends who wanted natural childbirth, but circumstances didn’t allow it. I was blessed in this way, to not have any complications. I pray my next birth goes as well. I truly believe that it really, really helped to be in my own home surrounded by a team that completely supported me going at my own pace and reinforced the belief that my body knew exactly what to do. I also want to say that perfect does not mean effortless. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. And also the most rewarding.
July 12, 2009:
My due date. I am scared and excited and so over the constant heartburn. My boyfriend, Danny insists that we buy a birthday cake to welcome the little bean. I go along with his idea, because…why not? We head to the local bakery, where he special orders a mocha cake. We stay in that night, watch a movie, and eat some cake. I go to bed late as usual, because I’m a night owl. I don’t go into labor. I didn’t expect to. It’s my first baby, and everyone is always talking about how first babies tend to come late.
July 13, 2009:
I awaken at 5 AM to cramps. I’ve been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for weeks, but this is the first pain I’ve felt. It feels like strong period cramps. I throw up and wake Danny to tell him I think I’m in early labor. I can’t get back to sleep. The cramps come every 10 minutes, last about one minute each time, and they are difficult to sit through. This pace remains steady all day. I watch a few movies, and try to keep my mind distracted. I remember my midwife’s advice, to try to go about my life normally and ignore early labor as much as possible, because it can last a long time. I don’t go for a walk. I don’t want to even leave the house. It is really difficult to ignore what’s happening, and I don’t feel in any condition to face the world. I throw up a couple more times this day. I am a puker, as my midwife says. I had morning sickness until halfway into my pregnancy, and continued to vomit sporadically throughout the remainder of it. My midwife warned me that women often throw up in early labor, and that it is important to keep myself hydrated and nourished. We call her at some point, and she urges me to eat. I eat turkey BLTs all day, because it’s the only thing I want and can stomach. When we call her again towards the end of the day, she tells me to soak in the tub and maybe drink a half of a glass of wine, so I can relax and sleep tonight, as the labor doesn’t seem to be picking up. I follow her advice and get to sleep around 11.
This first day of early labor is one of the hardest parts of labor for me. I feel like I am about to fall into a rabbit hole, and I can’t fight it, and have no idea where it is going to take me, except that it will be painful, very painful.
July 14, 2009:
I wake up at 4 in the morning to stronger contractions that are happening closer together. They are too strong to sleep. After suffering alone for a while, I wake up Danny and tell him I think it’s picking up. I sit on the yoga ball, and he works pressure points on my lower back through the contractions. It hurts. We are timing the contractions, and they are happening three to four minutes apart, lasting from 45 seconds to a minute. Sounds pretty active, right? Well, we think so, and call my midwife around 5 or 6 to let her know. I’m on the phone with her, describing what’s happening when I feel a contraction coming on. She says she’ll hold on until it’s over. I breathe through it silently, as I’ve been doing to manage the pain. When it’s over and I get back on the phone, she asks me if I had the phone on mute. I tell her no and she says, “You were kind of quiet. I didn’t hear any moaning or anything.” I tell her, yes, I was just breathing, and she replies, “You’re not in active labor yet. I know it’s hard, but try to get some more sleep and call me in a few hours.”
I am amazed and disillusioned. If this isn’t active labor, how bad is it going to get? I gather a mountain of pillows and lay in a kind of elevated child pose on top of my bed. I keep breathing through the regular contractions. I actually manage to sleep for a few hours. Gradually, I find myself getting into a zone. I wake up for the contractions, breathe through them, and then go back to sleep until the next one. By 9 AM, I am on the floor of my room, with pillows, still in child pose, still sleeping between contractions, only now I am moaning a low hum and counting slowly through them, because they are definitely getting stronger. Danny keeps timing them, and checking on me. He suggests several times that we should call the midwife again, but now I don’t want to. I don’t want to see anyone or deal with anyone except for this. I am in it. I put him off again and again, fine to be on my own alternately sleeping and moaning through unbearable but transient pain.
My midwife calls me at 9:30, but I don’t pick up the phone until she calls again at 10:30. She needs to let her team know what to plan for the day. We let her know the labor does seem to be moving along. She listens to me through another contraction and agrees. She shows up at about noon, and checks my cervix. When she sticks her fingers in, I watch her face shift from resigned to hopeful to sure. She then tells me that I was only at 1.5 cm, but she was able to pop me open to 4 or 5 cm. She explained that often women may have scar tissue that slows the opening of the cervix, and a little bit of manual touch can help one to move past that. She told me my active labor had just begun, as I was now past 3 cm. I continue to disagree. It had been happening for hours!
From this point on, my memory is very general and a bit hazy. My explanation for this: endorphins. My good friend, Serina showed up soon after the midwife. She is an acupuncturist and masseuse, and she and Danny worked pressure points for pain through every one of my contractions. This didn’t take the pain away, not by a long shot, but it helped. I was groaning a low animal groan through the increasingly painful contractions. They were coming very regularly, and after every one, I would feel so much bliss that the pain had passed.
Let me talk for a minute about the pain. I cannot remember it on a physical level, because of the special powers of selective memory. I can tell you I have never felt anything like it before. In the pit of my core was a pain, a wrenching, a squeezing that was all-encompassing. It was amazing, this pain, and I was completely awed by it. The only saving grace of this pain, the only thing that made it bearable, was that it was transient. Also, my body found a way to deal with it. Endorphins do not numb pain, but they did put me in a trance-like space that got me through it.
My midwife Cindy checked me again, and said I was at 7 or 8 cm, moving right along. Throughout the active labor, I was sitting on a big leather chair under the window in our upstairs hallway. I seemed to not want to move from that position, nor was I able to tell anyone where I wanted to eventually birth. I could not think that far ahead. Eventually, we decided to move a futon to the floor in front of the chair, so I could birth there. Cindy’s first assistant showed up around this time, and we decided to call my sisters, who were planning to come, when it was time to start pushing.
Cindy asked me a couple of times if I was feeling the urge to push. She also said it seemed like I may be getting close because I was “a little less with them.” I suddenly did feel the urge to push, and Cindy said she would check my cervix. Just then, my water broke, onto the chuck pad and leather seat, and it was clear. The urge to push passed for a while, then, which Cindy said is normal after the water breaks.
At some point, my sisters and Cindy’s second assistant arrived. I was naked and surrounded by seven people, completely uninhibited. I could care less what anyone thought of me, which is funny, because I think this is one of the things I was most nervous about before I went into labor. I was afraid of losing control, afraid of where I would go and who i would become, and who would witness this. When the time came, I felt like the belle of the ball. All of these people were waiting on me, and I was this magically amazing birthing woman, as beautiful as I will ever be in my life.
Eventually, the urge to push came back. Cindy checked me again and found a little cervical lip. And the hardest part of labor began. Cindy tried to open my cervix while I pushed once, but my cervix tightened around her fingers, so she immediately backed off, and told me not to push anymore. I guess if you put too much pressure on the cervix before it is fully dilated, it can swell up and prevent the baby from passing. She then told me to go take a shower with Danny. In the shower, I got nauseous and threw up. Luckily, one of the assistants got there in time with a bowl! I got out of the shower and leaned on the bathroom counter.
This is when I got hit by one contraction after another, with no breaks. Complete hell. I wanted to crawl out of my body. I had a very visceral sense of being stuck between a rock and a hard place, squeezed so tight with no way out. There was no comfort, and I couldn’t do it, and it would never end. Then I was anguishing on my hands and knees on the bedroom floor. I remember Tiffany, one of the assistants, saying to me, “You’re almost there,” and I was thinking, “Screw you! I am never going to get there!” Something felt very wrong. This kind of sensation couldn’t be right.
Luckily, it was temporary, even though at the time it felt like forever.
They helped me back to the futon in the hallway, and I panted on my hands and knees to keep from pushing. Cindy kept saying she would check me again, but kept holding off. At some point, I yelled, “I’ve gotta push!” Cindy told me to let it happen if I couldn’t resist, so I did that for a couple of contractions, not actively pushing, but not resisting it either.
After what seemed like an eternity, Cindy had me roll on my back to check me again. She was happy to report that I was fully dilated and the baby’s head was RIGHT THERE! I laid partially reclined on my back, with Danny sitting behind me for support. I pushed for about 30-45 minutes; it took a while to get the hang of it. I had to learn to stop vocalizing and instead focus all of my energy down there. They propped up a mirror so I could see the head, and everyone around got really excited, and kept exclaiming about seeing him crowning, but I could care less, honestly. I just wanted him the fuck out of me.
Finally, I felt a sharp pain, as his head popped out, and tore me just a tiny bit. From there, it was smooth sailing. Cindy turned him so his shoulders slid out easily, and suddenly he was in my arms!
It was all worth it immediately. I fell in love with his little face, and could not stop saying, “He’s so cute!” I had been a little bit afraid to meet this little being growing inside of me. I’d never been comfortable with newborns, and was afraid I would feel weird with him, and that he would be blue and cone-headed and ugly. It was kind of like a little alien growing inside me. But that all changed the moment I saw him, completely. I was surprised that he was pink and his head was a normal shape and he was perfect. Complete bliss, as I have never felt before, oceans of love engulfed me.
And they have never left.
The placenta came out painlessly with the next contraction. Once this was complete, Cindy relaxed, and stated with satisfaction, “The perfect birth!” After I held our baby skin to skin and got him to latch on for a bit, they had me hand him off to Danny so they could sew up my small tear. They brought me food, which I ate ravenously, with the hunger of a starving animal. I had eaten very little all day (maybe some yogurt and ice chips basically), and if you’ve paid attention, had slept very little for days. I was famished and exhausted like never before.
My mom and stepdad came over after I was sewn up and showered. We weighed the baby, and then celebrated with champagne and the rest of the birthday mocha cake. Gradually, everyone left, and Danny and I were alone in the house with this tiny little being. And then the real adventure began…
Gavin, 3 days old
- A Home Birthing Story (attachmentparenting.org)
- Birth (motherhoodpredicaments.wordpress.com)
- Ace’s Birth Story (sitwalklieandrise.wordpress.com)
- Birthing The Wee One (hopereconnected.wordpress.com)