Friday, May 23, 2008

A Birth Story (just for you birth story addicts)

Here it is, the story of my daughter’s birth, only 5 months overdue. Thank god the baby wasn’t that late!

I had felt from the beginning of the pregnancy that this baby would be early. Not dangerously early, but before her due date of January 3. At week 39, my midwife wanted me to start some herbs to spark labor. I was so ready and uncomfortable, and the baby was plenty big. On the 27th, I got a massage and had reflexology done to help labor start. A few hours later, my water broke. Yea!! We were getting started!! I had been so impatient and tired and uncomfortable for so long. I was having sporadic contractions that were very easy to manage. We felt so excited!

Around 9PM I had light meconium staining so we called the midwife and asked her to come over. Kristen, one of the midwives, came and checked me out. She assured me all was well, and suggested I get as much sleep as I could. Actually, it was kind of funny, since there were many exuberant suggestions on ways I could relax, and I kept trying to explain that if everyone would let me alone, I would go right to sleep. And I did, once I was able to get that out.

I should mention that when I am in labor, all the parts of my brain that evolved since lizardhood stop functioning. At all. I can’t speak during contractions; I can’t move around, I can’t really do much of anything. I read these amazing birth stories where women are talking and walking and all that, and I find it really impressive. Back to the story.

Kristen stayed at the house and checked in a few times. I slept through all of that. It got harder to sleep around 3:00 am and by 3:30 I decided that laboring alone was just too selfish and I should let everyone in on the fun. How thoughtful of me! I was having pretty strong back labor, with contractions starting at my back and gripping around to the front. With by son, it was all in my tummy. With my girl, it was full body pain. My thighs were especially sensitive. At one point they put hot packs on my thighs and oh, what a wonderful thing that was.

Around 5:45 my 4 year old son left the house with his godmother. I had held it together really well up to that point, but from here on, things got more intense and more, well, intense. I started vomiting and ended up alone sitting on the toilet as I threw up. I am not sure where everyone else was, but I vividly remember being alone and not being able to call out, not knowing how I could get help. I think I finally got up and wandered back into the bedroom myself.

Understand, most of the time, I had people around me. My partner was amazing and wonderful and supportive. She knew, better than anyone else, what I needed. Especially not to be touched. Touch was like a lightning rod for pain. Anywhere I was touched, even on my head, made the labor pain a million times worse. So much for those images of relaxing massage and all that. When anyone touched me, I moaned this prehistoric horrid sound that ended up being very effective at getting people the heck away from me.

Kristen checked me at 7ish and told me I was at 4 cm. Given that I was at 3 cm 20 hours into labor with my son ON PIT, I was ecstatic. I told her I loved her. Really. They had me go on hands and knees, pump for a while, sit on the birthing ball (I literally couldn’t balance) to move things along.

Around 9 Michelle, my head midwife, arrived. I remember being very into my labor but hearing her voice questioning Kristen and Kristen saying, “I swear she just started making these sounds!” I was too out of it to notice, but apparently I was making those unmistakable ‘transition noises’ you hear so much about. I was doing really well, completely relaxed between contractions, not at all aware of the world around me. I do remember everyone in the room screaming, “DON’T TOUCH HER!” when Michelle crouched next to me and started to put a hand out. Such a rush of gratitude ran through me! Michelle’s voice and presence had a huge impact on me, though. She is so amazingly grounded and strong. She gives the impression that if she were run over by a truck, she would get up, give the driver what-for, bandage herself up, and drive herself to the hospital to borrow their machines to confirm her diagnoses. I would hate to be her doctor, but I loved being her patient!

Michelle sat with me for a little while, and then suggested I get in the tub. This sounded wonderful to me, even if it meant I had to move. She had me go to the bathroom and decided to check my dilation once again. I remember being so happy that I was going to be getting in the tub! This was going to feel so good. Then Michelle announced I was at 10 cm and ready to push. My little lizard brain couldn’t really keep up with such intellectual stuff. As they were moving me into position, asking me to squat and stand and PUSH, I kept thinking, ‘but what about the tub?’ I was so confused. I did not believe in any way that I had been in labor long enough. Keep in mind, #1 was 28 hours, so barely 12 hours into this one, I just wasn’t grasping the possibility that I was nearly done.

I only pushed for about 20 minutes. Shortly into this, they kept telling me to touch the baby’s head. I honestly thought they wanted me to put my hand INSIDE to feel the baby’s head. As if I wanted anything else going on down there. I thought they were nuts. They kept going on about the baby’s hair. I am thinking, “Yes, hair, WHO CARES!!!” Finally someone grabbed my hand. The baby’s (admittedly very hairy) head was halfway out! I think I started crying.

It was during the whole pushing stage that Michelle’s presence was the most powerful to me. She said things like, “You are so strong! You are amazing! You are so beautiful!” She said these things like she meant them. The look in her eyes was awed. She had told me that birth is her church, and I totally get that. What is more powerful and sacred than this amazing act of giving birth?

My partner had asked to do all she could with the birth and the midwives had told her that she could do “everything.” She honestly thought that they would let her be nearby when they actually did everything, so boy was she surprised when Michelle stepped back and told her to catch that baby! She did perenium support, delivered the head, and with a short pause to let the midwives suction the baby’s mouth, she then caught our baby’s little body in her hands. She caught the baby, told me IT WAS A GIRL!!!, cut the cord, and was generally amazing and wonderful.

All of this by 9:51 am December 28, 2007. What a great start to the day!

My first birth experience had served to make me feel weak and powerless. This birth was the opposite. Instead of only 1 person on my side (my partner, of course), I was surrounded by people who believed in me. Even more powerful, they treated me like a capable person. No one held me in a birthing position. I held myself (my arms were sore afterward). No one treated me like anything other than a powerful, wonderful, capable woman. Thank you, everyone present, for giving me the healing experience I so wanted. And most of all, thank you, my beautiful daughter, for choosing me as your mama.


  1. Hello, I just wanted to say that it was a beautiful birth story.
    I have never given birth and won't for some years (I'm 21 only), but I hope I'll get lucky anough to do so one day. And I hope I'll be surrounded by people like you were, helping me through this and believing in me.
    My mother gave birth twice, the first time of a boy, it lasted more than 20 hours, and the second time it was of me, a girl. And it lasted about 3 hours. Her body was in shock (so was she I suppose) afterwards because it went too fast, but nobody could have stopped me! It seems I was in a hurry to see the world. :)
    Anyway, beautiful post.
    My best wishes for you and yours.

  2. I feel so cool that I made the story - for those who don't know, I am Rachel's son's godmother. I'm in a birth story other than my own. Very cool. I played a very small part, but I am so happy to have contributed to the successful birth of my goddaughter.