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Now that I am close to giving birth to our second child, I find myself reflecting on my first birth. While not everything went the way I imagined it would, my experience was peaceful, empowering, and positive.
On June 9th, 2011 at 1:16 am I pulled my little girl out of the water and onto my chest. I looked up into my husband’s eyes and down to my daughter’s face and in just a few precious seconds my entire life was changed.
The story really started over a year before, when my husband and I decided we were ready to expand our family. We started planning, we got our pink line, and planning turned into preparing. We chose to birth our child naturally, at home, with the assistance of a midwife (LaMonica) and a doula (Becky). We educated ourselves and planned for the outcome we wanted and that preparation paid off 100%.
I woke up at 1 am with moderate contractions but after weeks of having pre-labor I wasn’t going to get my hopes up. I grabbed my phone got out of bed and started my routine; text my best friend, pace the back patio, eat something and, if still having contractions, run the tub. The bath slowed things down and I started to write it off as another false start, but once I got out of the water the contractions picked back up and I decided to call my midwife and see what she thought. Mostly, she wasn’t sure, so I climbed back in bed and waited for my husband’s alarm to go off. If I wasn’t in labor I didn’t want him to be up all night. After the longest 20 minutes of my life his alarm finally went off and with a gentle touch to his arm I asked him, “Are you ready to have a baby today?” In the last four years I’ve never seen the man become so alert so quickly. He got out of bed and had the birth tub set up in what felt like minutes! At this point I was so exhausted I asked him to come back to bed with me and try to nap even though I was afraid the contractions would stop if I slept, I didn’t want to face labor on just three hours of sleep. I was able to sleep for a little bit before the contractions forced me awake again, but they were long and irregular and I was already skeptical that they were going to stick around. We decided to grab the dogs and go for a walk. With every contraction on the way there and back I had to stop and use my husband as support while swaying with the rushes and I was finally convinced it was the real deal. After talking to my midwife and my doula and putting them on stand-by, we settled onto the couch to play some video games. If you ask my husband for the next hour or two we were in Shanghai fighting some terrorists, but I’m pretty sure WE were the terrorists – or at least working with them, either way I played my best game ever.
When it got to the point that I couldn’t just pause through the contractions anymore I just wanted to get into bed and try to sleep even though the contractions were too strong at this point. According to what we learned during our Bradley classes this was an emotional marker that I was entering what I call “real” labor so I called my midwife and told her I was ready for her start her trek out since I knew it would take her a few hours to get here, then I called my doula and told her I was ready for her to come. I was still slightly skeptical, as I hadn’t lost my mucus plug or had my water break, but at the same time Becky arrived I finally lost my mucus plug. The Bradley Method (and many, many others) use modesty as a gauge for how far along in labor you are and the fact that I did not really care that someone was standing outside my open bathroom door with my husband while I went to the bathroom pretty much solidified that this was it. Becky helped Ross homebirth-guard the bed while I looked on, swaying my way through contractions, and then we made our way into the living room and onto the couch because I didn’t want to get into the tub too early. It was about 8pm now and the rest of it is kind of a blur to me, I was pretty exhausted at that point. Becky and Ross coached me through the contractions which were getting very intense and much closer together and I would lay back and rest during each break.
Whenever the rush would start to get the best of me I would just chant, “I’m OK. I’m OK. I’m OK,” that’s really what I remember the most. I was worried that my midwife wasn’t going to make it in time, though, as I was already fighting the urge to push and she was still about an hour away. With each contraction I would remember Ina May’s words, “Open mouth, open throat, open bottom,” and I would try to concentrate on just feeling my body open up, especially when multiple contractions would hit in a row. My doula reassured me that it was normal, just my body and baby using every opportunity to dilate, and I welcomed anything that meant progress. My body took over and I couldn’t fight the pushing anymore but since my midwife wasn’t there yet I tried not to work with them.
LaMonica arrived, checked me, and I got right into the tub. Oh sweet relief! I felt a renewed sense of energy when my body hit the water and I was ready to push my baby out. I started out in a sitting position, but the water was just too hot for me and I had a feeling I needed to be in the squat position to get the baby out, so I got onto my knees. Pushing was by far the hardest part of labor for me. I got onto my feet and after about an hour I finally felt the head of my baby girl. My pushes were pretty animalistic now, I practically roared through them so when I felt her coming and my midwife told me to hold her back I couldn’t believe anyone would be so cruel. (Granted, I knew from our birth classes that I was going to have to do this, but knowing and doing are two different things.) I did it though, while in labor I was really good at doing what I was told. Finally it was time to let her go and with a push I thought would break all of my teeth I brought my daughter into this world.
I never hit transition, I never begged for drugs, doctors, or an epidural (though I did ask to cry a few times) and through trust and commitment I birthed an 8 lbs. baby girl in the comfort of my own home. I tore a little and even hemorrhaged, but I was accompanied by a knowledgeable midwife who was prepared and efficient in handling these normal birth occurrences and she handled everything better than I imagine any doctor could have for me. I’ve had many, many stitches in my life, but I have never had a doctor ask me if I minded that they do them or apologize for my discomfort. I was treated with respect, compassion, and patience. In the end, it was hard and it was bliss; it was everything I hoped and I was so lucky to be able to experience it.
I am excited and anxious to do it again and I can’t wait to meet our sweet little baby whenever he or she decides it’s time.
But really, Kid. Mama is ready ANYTIME now…