This is the story of how I overcame doubt, fear, and negativity within myself so that I could experience the pure, raw power, intimacy, and spirituality of bringing life into this world. At 36 weeks I found out our baby was breech and my plans for a homebirth were nearly destroyed. With the help of my amazing fiance, my incredible midwife Claudette, and the support of my friends and family, I decided to forgo the unnecessarian, trust birth, and stick to my dream of birthing her in peace, without fear. I believe birth without fear is a right of passage, and has much to teach us about ourselves.
I learned to stop trying so hard to control things, and to live in the absolute present, following my heart without question, and to act without thinking.
Friday December 10th
I was going about my business as usual, nesting like a madwoman, when I had to take a break to use the bathroom. When I wiped, there was a big glob of rust-tinged mucus. Hmm. I decided to call my midwife Claudette. I had been told to report any sign of impending labor as my first labor was only 2 hours and they wanted to be sure to make it in time. This was around 12:40 pm. She told me to give her a call back if I started contracting, and said that she would stay in town. I called P at work and told him we may be having a baby today!
Around 2:00 my friend N dropped by with her kids. We were hanging out in the living room chatting when I noticed I was contracting regularly, albeit painlessly. N started timing my pressure waves and found that they were 10 minutes apart. By 3:00 they were exactly 8 minutes apart. I went to the bathroom and lost some more plug. I called Claudette again to keep her updated and we agreed to keep in touch. Around 4:00 I decided to go to the store as our fridge was nearly empty and I knew this little one would be here soon. I wandered around the store feeling high as a kite, not really able to efficiently watch my 4 year old, remember what the hell I went there for in the first place, and carry on a conversation with N all at the same time.
Around 4:30 I noticed that my contractions were slowing down, and my attitude was becoming progressively worse. I attribute the slowing and break in the pattern of my early labor to being around so many people and bright lights, and of course, my crappy attitude! My baby decided that this was not the night for her after all, and though at the time I was disappointed, I couldn’t blame her. I went home and cried like only a woman who thought she was in labor can. I cried not because I was sick of being pregnant, (I wasn’t) I cried because this was beginning like my first labor had, which I had no desire to repeat in any way.
I called Claudette to share the news and she reassured me that this didn’t seem like the kind of thing that would go on and on for 3 days. She said she would expect things to start back up soon, and to get some rest while I could. Wise woman! Off to bed I went, to sleep my last night of unbroken dreamless sleep, of about 10 hours.
Saturday, December 11th
P, A and I headed out to his mailbox and on our way back into town, stopped for lunch.
We got Mexican food and ate out front at a picnic table. I was taking a bunch of pictures of A and enjoying a street musician rocking out with some Led Zeppelin. I was feeling a lot of pressure, but no noticeable contractions. Before we left I took a trip to the bathroom and had a bit more of the mucus. We dropped off A with her dad, and headed out to the mall to pick up a few necessities, a postpartum support band (awesome) and a memory card for the camera. While wandering (note: following P) around the hardware department of Sears I noticed I was feeling pressure, regular pressure. I spent some time sitting on the bottom shelves there pondering whether or not to phone Claudette again while he looked at tools.
About a half hour later, in Radio Shack, I started timing these pressure sensations. I saw that they were 5 minutes apart, yet I felt no tightening, no cramping, as I had been feeling with my Braxton Hicks the week prior. After an hour of these, I called Claudette and updated her. Neither of us really could tell if this was the real deal or not, it was just so…strange. It felt like a spreading, from the inside, pressure on my hips and tailbone, but absolutely no uterine contraction. It was almost as if she was burrowing down, nestling deep into my pelvis every five minutes. What a beautiful gentle sensation it was to feel labor starting all on it’s own!
I began to feel a real need to be at home, so we headed out. On the way there, we stopped to take pictures of the sunset, and when we got home, spent about a half hour out in the front yard photographing and enjoying the moon. I remember one of our neighbors coming over and talking to P while I was taking pictures.
“Woah, looks like she’s ready any time, eh?”
“Actually we think she might be in early labor now!”
“Um. Wow, so getting ready to head out to the hospital then?”
“No, just inside. We are having the baby here…”
He looked like he needed a drink after hearing that!
Funny how people would freak out when they found out we weren’t going to an institution to be “delivered”. And he didn’t even tell him she was breech!
We went inside and tidied up a bit, then headed to our room to have a little time together just the two of us, before there were three. P had joked before how I should tell him when I wanted him to get her out, and he would. I will spare the details, but have to say it was amazing. The profound respect, love, and closeness we share made it an unforgettable moment that I will treasure forever. The kind of stuff that makes a hormonal lady cry. (In a romantic and pure love way, of course!)
Lo and behold, about a half hour later things intensified. My contractions were coming 3 minutes apart now, and I was feeling a little more serious about what was happening. I dialed Claudette and handed P the phone. He kept asking me what to say, and mid-contraction I snapped “What do you think, damnit!?” Yep. Definitely in labor now!
One of the midwives, Dana, materialized at our doorway what seemed like 5 seconds later, Claudette appeared shortly after with armfuls of gear and started setting up in the planned birthing space, our living room. I recall staring at all the stuff, thinking to myself “Wow, that’s a whole lotta stuff they are going to have to pack up and put away in an hour or so when my labor stops… we really shouldn’t have called them, I can’t believe they are going through all this effort for nothing.” The fact I was having these thoughts in my living room naked in front of everyone wasn’t an indicator of true labor to me, apparently…
I went to my room, dimmed the lights and shut the door. I took a deep breath and tried to remember my hypnobirthing techniques. I’ll just go lie down, and quit fussing around with things I have to think about…just relax, go limp. Go within, meditate. I climbed onto my bed and tried to make myself comfy. I was getting situated with a pillow between my legs as another contraction hit. I laid down and took a big breath, trying to imagine my body sinking into the bed. My legs were in an awkward position with the pillow halfway between. As the contraction peaked the pain became unbearable. I leapt up and squatted beside the bed. It felt better this way, but I hadn’t caught it in time for it to be manageable. I howled and rocked, eyes watering with the intensity of it all.
As soon as it subsided I made a beeline for the hot tub. P had prepared it to be my little labor nest. He hung white tarp from a canopy, and strung beautiful landscaping lights from the ceiling. I climbed in and found the water to be too lukewarm, and wanted to turn it up. Claudette came outside and suggested that I keep it at 99, at the most 100 degrees. I wanted 101 or 102, but she cautioned that too hot may stall out my labor.
I was disappointed, but tried to go with the flow. I got comfy and started my slow breathing. I tried to remain seated and limp as I felt a contraction coming, but as it continued building, I got up and leaned over the side of the tub, rocking back and forth at the hips. I had one more contraction in the hot tub, and decided that it was way to small and constrictive to labor in at this time. I got out, toweled off, and went inside to dry by the fire.
I stood leaning on the mantle watching the flames dance and trying to picture myself melting into them, all fluid like, no tension. Another contraction hit and was so uncomfortable..why wasn’t this working?! Why can’t I be still, why can’t I just relax? I went back into my room, wanting to give up already. I noticed my attitude getting progressively worse, I starting cursing under my breath during contractions and tossing things roughly aside when they got in my way. I told P that the hypnobirthing may have been a scam, because it sure wasn’t working for me, and how was I supposed to just lie there and go limp when I felt like all I wanted to do was tense up?
Another contraction came, this was starting to feel like it would never end. I dropped to the ground in a deep squat, cursing and feeling resentful toward our baby. “Get the hell out baby, your hurting me!!” I knew it sounded horrible, I couldn’t even remember if I had said it aloud or not, but I felt guilty for it immediately. P continued to assure me, fan me, bring me water and juice. I can’t remember his exact words, but I think they were along the lines of- “You need to let go. Stop trying to be in control, and just relax. Everything is fine.”
What a great doula! I nodded and tried to internalize his wisdom, to not let negativity engulf me and change my birth from the beautiful powerful experience it was meant to be. I needed to calm down and stop trying to fight my body’s efforts. I went into the bathroom to have a moment of privacy with my thoughts, and just to be alone.
After a bit I checked in the toilet bowl and saw blood. I looked down and saw a long bloody shreds of mucus coming from my body. OK! Things are happening! Cervix is dilating! I’m in labor! Up until this point I was still in denial of what was going on. Another wave of fear hit me. Oh no, I’m in labor! My heart started pounding fiercely, my vision blurred with panic. My hands began shaking and another contraction hit me, sending me to my hands and knees, howling and almost writhing on the floor. I can’t do this, I don’t want to do this… I jumped to my feet and ran into my bedroom where P was sitting on the bed, looking relaxed and completely unconcerned.
“P!! I’M IN LABOOOORR!!” I hollered at him, expecting some sort of profound reaction. He blinked at me and briefly looked at me like I was completely nucking futs. “My heart, it’s beating TOO FAST. Feel!! Oh God, what if this was a bad idea, what if something is WRONG?! WHAT IF I DIE??” So much for calming down!
As always, he was unshakable, bless his heart. The perfect picture of calm, he looked deep into my eyes and assured me that everything was, is, and will be just fine. Claudette came in to check the baby’s heart again, slipping in quietly, kneeling under my massive belly for only a moment and then disappearing again.
I took another deep breath and gave myself a stern talking to with my “doula voice”- If you want a positive birth experience, you need to make it one, they don’t just happen. Surrender and completely let go of all negativity and fear! Birth without insecurity, without apology.
I could feel another contraction building, and felt the need to move quickly, so I did. With P on my heels fanning me vigorously, I zoomed down the hall into the kitchen and back, several times and to my surprise, found it to be completely manageable. After a few “runs” I began to feel like a mama panther. I paced my house back and forth huffing, growling and tossing my head, eyes dilated and sightless. At times I almost broke into a run even..when appropriate.
I imagined myself hiking naked under the moon, in the cold December night air. It sounded so amazing, and the absolute most appropriate thing to do. I told P this and headed for the front door. He gently steered me away and back down the hall. I complained and tried to argue, but in the back of my mind knew that it probably wasn’t a good idea, us living in a suburban neighborhood and all, a naked woman in labor might prompt my neighbors to call enforcements of some kind, which I agreed would be annoying and disruptive.
I noticed that during the absolute peak of contractions I would pause with my pacing to rock my hips in bellydance-style movements. In the back of my mind I pictured women in ancient Egypt and how many of them must have danced their babies out just like I was that night.
After a while I ended up in my older daughters room. I paced back and forth, squatted and swung my arms up and down like metronomes to the beat of my labor. At several points I looked over and noticed the cat curled up on A’s little table, watching me with a slightly irritated look on her face for disturbing her slumber with all my blubbering. It was really reassuring, and amusing- to realize that amidst all my internal chaos I was still on earth, in our home, in my daughters room… and the cat was annoyed.
Soon I began to feel very tired. The lovely endorphins were kicking in, and I felt boozy. Between them I would lean over and rest my head, almost falling asleep. As soon as I was comfy and dozing off another pressure wave would build and I would have to get up and swing my arms, power walk and squat when all I wanted to do was SLEEP.
During contractions I started talking to her. “OOOOOOUUUUUUUUTTT BABY, COME DOOOOOWWWWWWWN BABY, Yesss baby, I want to meet you, I want to hold you, to kiss you.”
I was getting exhausted. Though I had only been in labor for 6 hours at this point, my contractions had been coming a minute apart for the last 2.5 hours. I made my way into my kitchen where the midwives were sitting at the table eating chocolate, laughing and drinking tea. “I’m tired.” I announced, waiting for them to give me the magic solution to my problem. They looked at each other and smiled. “Do you want me to check you?” Claudette asked. I declined and retreated back to my cave for more pacing.
10 minutes later I was back. “Can you check me now?” She agreed and followed me to my room. Thus far she had asked me only one other time during my labor if I wanted to be checked, when I went in to announce that I was bleeding earlier. I had avoided it so far out of fear of my water breaking during/after the check. I had labored before with broken waters and much preferred this, thank you. I am forever grateful that she completely respected my wishes of hands off and lots of privacy. Though at this point I think I was nearing the end of my energy reserve and wanted some feedback.
In between contractions she knelt down and checked me as I leaned forward onto my dresser and rested. I was 7 cms dilated in the front, and 9 in the back. She went on to explain that though it was a good coping mechanism for me to run laps around the house, it wasn’t doing what needed to be done. I wasn’t allowing the baby to hold the pressure on my cervix which is what it would take to move things along quicker. She suggested that I do lunges during contractions, and remain still.
Someone might as well have told me to place my hand in a fire and sit still as my skin blistered and melted off my bones…but I knew she was right, and I had to try. Another contraction came and I immediately began my ritual of pacing and swinging my arms. P asked if I was going to lunge and suggested our nightstand. “Next time, next time..” I muttered and waved my hand at him, knowing that I was full of it and had no intention of doing that at all and headed into A’s room again.
Somehow, in between that contraction and the next, I changed my tune and made a commitment to myself and our baby that I would do what I had to do, no matter how crazy things got. I took a deep breath and put my foot up on my daughters bookshelf as I felt another one building. I steeled myself and prepared for massive agony. I could feel my pelvis open up like a clothespin, joints at the maximum extension, then a little more. I felt so crampy and achey down low, then lower, a burning sensation deep within my pelvis. Standing still gave me a chance to notice and really feel what was happening within me, and it almost felt good. I made loud noises, attempting to let some of the insanely intense energy out of me, then it was done. Alright, I thought, I can do this. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, none of my labor so far was as hard as I was expecting it to be.
I went back into my room and into the bathroom and started restlessly folding the towels draped over the shower door. I had an incredible urge to nest, even this far into my labor! Another pressure wave was coming, and I tried out the nightstand. Low and loud noises made it possible, even manageable. As the contraction wound down, the top of my belly curled over and a tell-tale grunt followed. “Go get them, tell them I feel like pushing!!!!” I was ecstatic. P went into the living room to relay the news, and they came in to observe. I tried fiddling with the camera, putting in the 8 gig card we bought earlier and trying to get the video to work. I passed it to P as I felt myself starting another rush. My baby was minutes from being earthside and nobody could get the camera to work!
Claudette checked me again, saying I was complete in the back, but at 9.5 in the front, so I should wait on pushing as long as possible and keep up with the lunges. (Breech is a variation of normal, but it’s vital to wait until absolute full dilation for the best attempt at a complication free delivery).
I took a deep breath and lifted my leg up onto the ottoman at the foot of our bed. Dana was sitting on our bed peacefully, watching it all unfold. I looked at her, through her, as the pressure wave grew stronger. Time stood still. I flared my nostrils and took in as much air as my lungs would allow. I felt my cervix stretch over our baby as she passed through it and filled me to bursting below. Deep inside I felt the screaming intensity of post orgasmic sensitivity and heat. I was a tuning fork, my entire body ringing with the energy of birth, the cosmic power of earth moving through my bones. I went blind. I saw grasses blowing in the wind on a beach-side meadow, complete peace and stillness, time ceased to exist.
A split second later I snapped to and felt something between my legs. I struggled to pull down my underwear and saw the milky-clear bag of waters ballooning out from me. I could see the water swirling around with bits of blood and vernix. It grew larger and larger then burst with a loud pop all over the floor.
Immediately the urge to push was unavoidable. I notified Claudette that I could no longer wait and was going to just go for it. I was vaguely aware of Dana running supplies in from the living room as fast as she could. How wonderful! It never occurred to them to ask me to move.
P tried to get behind me to see her emerge, but I asked him to get in front of me. I needed him there to hold my hands as I rode this tsunami to shore. I squeezed his hands, and let go. I felt her body stretch mine to the limit, then begin to part from me. I felt everything. And it was glorious.
I looked down in between my legs and heard Claudette’s delighted chuckle- “She’s peeing on me!!” I could see her little buns sticking out, cupped in Claudette’s hand. I shut my eyes tight and pushed her out into Claudette’s ready hands.
Emptiness. A river of blood down my legs. A baby crying!
Claudette caught her into her chest, without even a chance to put on gloves. She passed her through my legs and set her on the bed. “Short cord, OK?” I looked at my new daughter. Crying, purple lips, wide frantic eyes, chubby and absolutely beautiful. I tried to scoop her up to my ches,t but her cord was too tight. I set her back down on the bed and cradled her up in my hands and crooned “Hiiiiiii babyyyyyy…There you are”
Welcome to earth baby! 2 minutes of pushing, no tearing! Super easy. 11:41 pm, 12.11.10
She settled down for a moment then cried some more. She pinked up right away and needed no suctioning! With their help I scooted up on the bed to lie down with my fluffy pink delicious newborn. (My own bed!)
They checked her over and deemed her perfect, (of course she is!) and with hardly a bruise on her bum. Claudette took me to the bathroom to get cleaned up and dressed (my own bathroom!), while Daddy got to snuggle with his precious little girl for the very first time.
A while later we weighed her, she was a yummy 6lbs 13.5 ozs. I was on top of the world. I did it! WE did it! I had my little “frankie” at home, and it was even more amazing than I thought it could be.
For those interested, here is her placenta! P and Dana encapsulated it for me to help with PPD. So far so good.