Here it is, finally, my birth story.
The night I went into labor I went to see a movie with a friend. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I suspected I might be having regular contractions. I didn’t want to get too excited, I knew about false labor, so I just kept track loosely of how close they were occurring. I tried to sleep, but they kept coming, and they were getting closer together and stronger. At 1 am I called my midwife, who advised me to labor at home and call again in a few hours. I became excited and full of anticipation, but needed to conserve my energy so I laid on my bed, on my side, and rested in between contractions. Whenever one came, I closed my eyes and breathed through it. As they became stronger, I started using my voice to breathe through them, like a soft moan.
I called after a few hours and talked to my midwife, Kim, who said to keep laboring at home. I was hanging out with my husband on the bed for the next couple of hours; he timed my contractions. We were surprised at how quickly they progressed - they kept coming closer together and stronger. After a while I could not lie down anymore, so I paced the house and alternately sat on a yoga ball. I lit some candles in the living room and enjoyed the quiet darkness of early morning. When the contractions came I would lean on a wall or get onto my hands and knees and sway back and forth.
At 7.30 am we transferred to the birth center. The car ride was not fun. Try having a contraction while the car is stopped at a red light! When we got to the birth center Kim asked me a lot of questions about how I was feeling, what was comfortable or uncomfortable, and then she left Scott and I alone for awhile. She offered to check my progression anytime I wanted her to, and I chose to wait. I didn’t want to be discouraged if I wasn’t dilated much. I was still dealing with contractions by getting onto all fours and swaying, and that seemed to work really well for me. In between contractions I was very social, and upbeat, joking and telling stories with Scott and Kim. I was eating grapes and Clif bars to try to keep up my strength.
By 11 am the contractions were very strong, and I was becoming loudly vocal to deal with them. Kim checked me and I was nearly 10 cm dilated, so she filled up the tub and I got into it. The water was helpful, and the warmth was comforting. The contractions continued to get stronger, and I started to feel like I might crawl out of my skin. Scott brought a straw to my mouth between contractions so I could drink water and gatorade. I stayed in the tub for about an hour, though I had no concept of time and didn’t realize I’d been in there so long until Kim told me the water had gone cold. She asked if I wanted her to warm up the water, to stay in the tub, or if I wanted to get out and try a different position. I asked her to decide, and she suggested we try something different.
I labored on the toilet for some time, and that’s when I began pushing; it was about 12.15 pm. I always thought I would be someone who just “got it” when it came time to push. I had imagined myself feeling relieved with the resistance of pushing. Not so. Dealing with a contraction and trying to push at the same time felt like a lot to handle. I began to doubt myself, and I told Kim “I don’t want to do this anymore”. She said, “That means you’re almost done”. And she was right. Soon I felt his head, and Kim and Scott helped me onto the bed, where I continued to push on all fours, with my arms draped over a yoga ball. Kim coached me in pushing, telling me to breathe in deeply then focus on pressing down with my diaphragm. My water broke.
I was asked to lay back, in a semi-sitting position, and Scott sat behind me. I concentrated on pushing and Kim supported my perineum with counter-pressure as the baby crowned. I had envisioned feeling the pressure in my perineum, because I read many birth stories that said giving birth feels like having a bowel movement, but I felt a ton of pressure against my pubic bone. In one furious second, I was sure it would break. But it didn’t, and after his head came out the pressure was relieved.
Finn came out crying, a healthy loud noise of joy. I was later told that upon seeing him I said “Baby! You’re a baby!”, but I don’t remember any sounds. I don’t remember hearing him cry, I only remember seeing him, and holding his slippery, beautiful body. I remember the feelings of triumph, of pure joy, of love.
My mantra had been “Labor is hard, it hurts, and you can do it” and it was so true! My most valuable resources were Pam England’s book “Birthing From Within” (where that mantra came from) and my prenatal yoga class, which taught us coping methods for intense muscle contraction, such as breathing noisily and relaxing the muscles that aren’t involved in holding a pose. My birthing experience was a great case for completely natural, drug-free birth, but that was helped along by my uncomplicated pregnancy, which was truly a blessing. I have become much more respectful of all birth stories since giving birth, and I have come to value life in a whole new way.