That night, my husband Jimmy and I were going to cook a simple dinner and hang inside. As the day wore on though, I felt like it would be fun to go out. I wasn’t expecting baby to come, still I was thinking that this weekend may be the last before we were parents. We ended up having very spicy soup and tempeh wraps at one of our favorite cafes, followed by a terrific, though, cold walk. It was on the same beach where we held hands and cuddled under a lifeguard stand during our first weeks dating. This particular beach is very sacred to me and even thinking about it now brings a smile to my face. I still see us on that beach; a new couple, afraid to say the wrong thing or give off any weird vibes, just nervously enjoying each other’s company. I never could imagine that man under the lifeguard stand would be the man, who in just a few hours, would be by my side holding my hand as I pushed our child into the world.
We were back at home, around ten o’clock when my water broke. I was sitting up and heard a pop, then felt a slow river moving around my legs and on the bed sheets. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion: me looking at the water and calling Jimmy’s name and him coming in to see the display of water soaking the bed. We both let out a nervous laugh before I got up and walked into the bathroom. There it continued to come out into the toilet like someone was pouring a bucket of water. I told Jimmy our baby was probably wondering what the heck was going on! I also felt strangely close to that little one, seeing all the water that once floated around its body.
We hugged and kissed each other before the tears came. I told him I was scared. While all my pregnancy I looked forward to this moment, I was in some ways dreading it. I was frightened of the pain and more afraid that I wouldn’t be able to see my baby born at home.
We both remembered that there were some groceries we had meant to pick up, so Jimmy out while I changed the sheets. This was after I had called my midwife Linda to let her know the news. She sounded surprised and asked if I was having any contraction. As she asked this I felt a tightening in my lower abdomen. “Sort of, maybe. I think?” I answered. “That’s good!” she responded. It was so nice to hear her voice, yet completely surreal that we were having the conversation about me being in labor. I often envisioned the phone call and felt chills that it was happening! She advised me to try to go to sleep, and she would do the same and if nothing came in the morning we would talk about possibly using castor oil to get labor going.
Sleeping was nearly impossible. Not because I was in terrible pain. The contractions I experienced were manageable with deep breathing. I was more nervous/anxious about meeting the baby I loved so much from within the womb. Our bond was so strong already. How would he/she react in the world, and to me? Would my baby and I have love at first sight? Would it be a bond that needed time to grow? Yes, sleeping was not on my mind one bit, but somehow I managed to get a few hours in.
Around six am I couldn’t lay in bed any longer. I got up and walked into the living room where my birth ball had been sitting since November. Just two weeks early I sat on that ball, staring out into a big full moon that shined into our living room. It was the night I had some “false” labor. I felt the full moon tugging, but my body wasn’t ready just yet.
Swaying back and forth on the ball, I sat gazing into the darkness of morning. I felt a confidence overcome me. I was ready. Baby was ready. My body was ready. It was time. I needed to get this labor going!
I took a shower, which was rather uneventful. No contractions worth noting. We called our mothers letting them know the news. Jimmy’s mother quickly came over and brought us bagels. She gave me a big terrific hug and told me I was going to do great. I ate a bagel and swayed on my ball. That was when the contractions started to come in longer waves. We kept timing them and found they were coming closer together, first every 15 minutes apart and then by 9am were closer, around 10 minutes.
My ball was my sanctuary. Leaving the ball meant terrible pain that I did not welcome. I felt safe on the ball, so on the ball I stayed. The music playing switched from classical Indian flute to ocean and bird sounds. Jimmy was by my side for every contraction with his arms outstretched which I grabbed onto for support. It felt much better to have my eyes closed and simply sway with the music. I remember saying to Jimmy how grateful I was to be home, instead of in unfamiliar room with unfamiliar people.
I continued to relax further and further. I felt like I was walking into a dream, and now that I come to reflect on it, this is the part of labor that becomes very hazy.
I remember Rebekah, my second midwife, coming to check on me sometime around 10. She said I looked great and would give us our time alone until things picked up. I wasn’t sure how things would pick up or what she meant. Contractions were already coming so close together and lasting up to a minute. How much more could things progress? Little did I know I had a looong way to go.
From this point on I remember only moving off the ball once to the couch, which sucked. I tried to relax into the couch but it was too painful so I moved back to the ball. I remember Jimmy’s mom coming back to bring us lunch foods, though I don’t remember talking to her. I was seriously in the zone. When my mom showed up I snapped a little out of it. I love my mother but she brought so much high energy that it distracted me. I kindly asked her to hang out locally until things picked up. I also informed her it may be a while.
(I look peaceful, but laying on the couch only intensified the contractions)
It was when Rebekah came back, around 12 or 1, that Jimmy began filling up the birth tub with water. I suddenly realized there was something better than the ball. Warm sweet water! I walked a little during this time to let gravity do its thing. That sucked a lot!
Rebekah checked me before getting in. I was disappointed to say the least when she told me I was only 2 cm dilated. I felt like my body was doing so much work, how could I only be 2? I guess this is the reason a lot of woman decide not to be checked. It can become discouraging! However Rebekah assured me that was good and I was doing awesome.
Once I got into the water, time ceased to exist (more than it had already, at least), and I lived inside a world of rest and heavy breathing through contractions. It was all I knew from around 1 or 2 when I got into the pool, until 8:30 pm when I began pushing. For many hours I moved within the waters, trying to open myself up and fall into the thrusts of labor. At times the contractions were sheer agony. The sort of pain you cannot prepare for because there is nothing else in the world like it. Women experience this exclusive sensation, perhaps to make the reward of birth more gratifying, or the tale to tell more interesting.
I sat with my back leaning on the tub walls with a cold cloth sprinkled with peppermint essential oil on my forehead. This cloth was my very dear friend. It was cooled and on my body at all times, thanks to my dear husband. I remember constant pots of boiling water which were being dumped in the tub and scooped out. I remember asking for water and my husband’s arms constantly. Jimmy was such a source of comfort for me. I knew he would be wonderful, but oh how I depended on him. And he was there, every second of our sons birth, he did not leave my side.
When Linda, my second midwife arrived things had “picked up” as Rebekah said they would. I figured I was progressing when the contraction became completely inescapable. I remember looking out the window and seeing the world. It was a very windy and rainy day. I was wishing I could crawl out of my body into the wind and fly far far away from labor. It had been so many hours, so much deep breathing. I felt trapped within my body. I moaned loudly now, trying to escape. Jimmy reminded me to keep the moans deep and productive, to not get caught up in my mind, to stay in my body. I asked him to help me, because I truly felt like I wasn’t doing it right (as if a woman can labor wrongly). I thought there was something I could be doing better or different.
I was moaning for help when Linda recommended I get out of the water and change positions for a while. Rebekah suggested sitting on the toilet, facing the wall. Like the birth ball, the toilet provided a seat with little pressure on the back which helped the labor pains. Rebekah kneeled behind me and applied counter pressure to my hips. For the first time in hours I felt relief. A woman’s touch truly makes a difference. I did not receive any medications, but her hands were my pain relief during that time.
It was after this Linda wanted to check me. I laid on my back, reluctantly (contraction greatly intensified on my back). She found I was just near complete, but had an anterior cervical lip which was keeping me from progressing completely. I didn’t know what that meant, but know now that the baby was putting a little more pressure on one side of my cervix which allowed one side to complete but not the other. Linda suggested that she hold back the lip and I push. “Push!?” I thought. “It’s time for that?” I thought it would never come. I thought I’d be trapped in transitional labor for the rest of my days, but atlas, there was a point to all of this. I was to push a baby out!
So with the next contraction I let out a push followed by a huge yelp. It was the loudest I think I ever screamed before. When it was over I apologized to everyone in the room, and it explained it had hurt a lot. I think everyone understood.
I did not like pushing on land so I headed back into the water. I pushed in several positions there before I felt like I needed to get out and try something new. I pushed standing while leaning against a table. I pushed on a birth stool. I pushed in cat/cow. I returned to the water, where Jimmy held back my legs to narrow the passage of the birth canal. While pushing here I made a lot of progress and Rebekah could see me opening. Linda had the dobbler on me during contraction to hear the baby’s heartbeat. It fluctuated from 120-130, however dropped low at one point to 109. I had been pushing for two hours, in labor for over 12 hours, and had a bag of waters broken for 24. I was feeling some pressure to get the baby out. But the truth is I didn’t know how to push.
How counter-intuitive, right? But in the moment it felt as if I still was not doing something correctly. Maybe it was just a small lingering fear that snuck into my labor. Maybe, as a first time mom, I truly wasn’t pushing how I should. My midwives seemed to think I was doing great, however that did not stop them from being very concerned about the baby. They told each other that they needed to put a “time on this one.” which meant, x hours or minutes until we were going to the hospital. I was exhausted and becoming overwhelmed by the ticking clock. I asked them what I should do. They suggested I get on land and try a new position.
The position they had in mind seemed crazy. However, I was so passionate to get the baby out that I did it without second thought. It was a warrior 1 type position, one you might do in yoga, except my front leaning foot was on top of my couch and my back lunging leg was on the ground in front of it. Jimmy was on my right side holding both my hands and Rebekah and Linda were behind me.
With each contraction I began pushing. I felt intense burning and pain, yet kept hearing the midwives tell me how great my push was. They saw a bit of the head crown. Rebekah even said she saw lots of hair! This got me going. With every contraction the little stinker would come out and then move back in. At this point Linda and Rebekah became very hands on and began stretching me out to make room for the baby’s head. Somehow I did not feel their hands nor the sensation of the baby descending the birth canal. I simply felt pain. In fact, pushing was the most painful part of labor for me. I think it has something to do with the fact that it was the most active. It involved my complete participation and strength and wasn’t something I was passively experiencing like contractions.
Pushing was incredibly exhausting. It was 10:30 and I told them I couldn’t do anymore. Linda told me I could, and I had to. “You have to push your baby out” she said in such a way that I felt it wasn’t a choice, it was my job. No one could get the baby out but me. Everyone was waiting for the one big push. So I made the next contraction it. I pushed, I pushed again, I yelled, I screamed, I sounded like a tribal warrior and pushed again, and when I thought there was no more I pushed again and again. I heard Jimmy telling me how great I was, I heard the midwives saying “Good. Good. Good” so I kept pushing far after the contraction until I heard that first precious sound. A small cry filled the room and I knew my baby’s head was out in the world for the first time. I pushed again and out came the rest of his body into my midwives arms which quickly became mine.
His eyes were so big. Everything dissolved and all I saw were those big eyes holding my attention and heart. I found Jimmy, and though the room was dim (lit only by Christmas lights) I saw tears coming down his cheek. We both starred into our baby’s eyes until someone asked, “what is it??” Oh yah! We moved a leg over and announced together, “It’s a boy!” Our sweet darling boy. Yes it was love at first sight. Yes he had a lot of beautiful blonde hair. He was absolutely perfect. Within the minute of holding him for the first time all the pain subsided. I don’t remember pushing out the placenta. It sort of just came out without me. I was very high on natural oxytocin. I looked at him in my arms and said to Jimmy “I can’t believe he is here!” Even now, nine weeks later, I think the same thing.
(Harper’s first meal)
I got into bed where I received two stitches for a small tear, all the while Harper latched beautiful and was eating some colostrum. I felt great, considering all that had happened just minutes before. I was laughing and talking to everyone. I took a shower and ate a big bowl of pasta my mom had made. Jimmy’s mom also came over to see the grandson she had been so patiently waiting for.
At 1 am, our midwives and moms left. The storm had passed and a beautiful starry night hung over our home. Jimmy and I cuddled into bed with Harper in the middle. I stared at him in awe that just a few short hours ago he was in my womb, a beautiful little mystery. Now he was within arm’s reach, perfectly made by my body, making the sweetest and softest sounds in his sleep.
I’ll never forget the feeling of laying in my bed, and I think this was my favorite part of having Harper at home. When it was over, I got to lay in my own bed. Other pluses were that I didn’t have to ask someone else to eat or pee or see my baby. I could relax with my husband and my newborn. Bliss—utter bliss.
Of course it was painful and exhausting. It was everything nature intended it to be. But that day of my son’s birth, is and will remain the best day of my blessed existence. My beautiful sweet miracle.