A tale of two very different births
This little girl’s birth story begins with her brother’s. For my son’s birth, I had planned a homebirth; unfortunately his birth became a conventional one, overrun with interventions and ended with surgery. These events affected my self-image. I saw myself as a failure. I imagined others saw me as a failure, as a woman unable to birth her own baby. I was scared to try again, and even considered playing it safe by having only one child. On the night of the birth of our second child, Ginger, I re-lived the fears of Bennett’s birth and ended by facing a failure that never was.
The night before Ginger’s birth, I woke to the feeling of mild contractions. I roused Jenna and she helped by keeping pressure on my lower back. As each contraction approached I would squeeze Jenna’s arm to keep her awake, to be there with me through it. By 6 am the contractions were stronger and closer, and I asked Jenna to page our doula and midwife. I wanted and needed their support and encouragement. As the labor grew stronger, it was clearly time to travel to the hospital. Jenna drove to the emergency entrance at the hospital where a nurse greeted us with a wheelchair. What a relief. Not because I could sit down and be wheeled away, but because I had entered the place where I knew I would be expertly cared for and where my baby was going to be born.
I was leaning over the bed when our midwife asked if I wanted my dilation to be checked. I was hesitant. I did not want to be disappointed. What if I was only at three? My mind briefly rested on the fact that I only dilated to a five with Bennett, and actually regressed to a three from there. Could this happen again? Was my body cut out for this? I quickly excused this notion and with curiosity said, “yes.” I had dilated to a five. Relief! I am not a three. But I still had a long way to go.
I asked if I could get in the tub. My midwife declared triumphantly, “sure.” This felt good. I still needed some help with the back pain, but it was less intense. The midwife was helpful, calm and encouraging. She suggested I think of my body like a leaf floating on the water. Relax. This was the key that opened my cervix. I needed to do this. I was doing this. It was time to change positions again and get out of the tub. Before I did, my midwife asked again if I wanted to be checked. Still, with hesitation, I said yes, fearing I had not dilated beyond a five. I was a seven! Jenna and I cheered. This was progress.
I was in the ‘transition phase’—the most difficult phase of labor for most women. It is when women feel the most pain and when many women want to quit. This was exciting. I had not dilated to a seven with Bennett. This was a victory. Then, the pain started to emulate Bennett’s labor. As the wave crested, I had a hard time breathing. My breath caught in the sharpness. Stacey, our doula, and Jenna worked to keep me focused—looking into my eyes and holding my gaze, breathing with me. Two breaths in, one breath out. I felt primal now. I felt my body taking over and doing the work. I was trusting yet tired. I thought, “I want this baby out. I don’t know if I can do this.” I spoke those words aloud. I needed them to know what I was feeling. I needed them to remind me that I COULD do this. Despite the pain and the slight weakness of spirit, I was trusting and plodding along the slow path to a new baby -- born naturally. This was my plan, my goal, my desire.
We then went to the birthing stool before squatting through some contractions. The pain was grinding and ripping. I screamed. I was coached to bring my sound from my belly not my throat, to push the baby out. My midwife checked me again. I was at a NINE, with just a small lip of the cervix to open. She suggested that she could move it, and then we could begin pushing. WHAT? Already? Are you sure? I was alternately thinking, “No way,” and “We are there. This I can do.” At first I tried lying down, but my hips and legs cramped during the contractions. My midwife came up with a brilliant idea. She tied a bed-sheet in a knot and had me grab the sheet and pull on the sheet as I pushed through a contraction. She said I was strong and a hard worker.
The energy in the room shifted. It was exciting and charged. I felt powerful! What I wanted was happening. I, we, made this happen. I was about to have this baby naturally. I never felt that with Bennett. I had actually rejected the thought that I gave birth to Bennett. I often said about his birth that he was removed from me. I was a passive party in his arrival. A cold body lying still, numb to any physical experience of this grand event. All I could hear were the murmurings of the surgical staff through the heavy cloak of silence and anticipation. And then, there was elation--he was perfectly healthy. I just did not feel it in every cell of my body due to MY own hard work. He was here, it was over, the emotion was dulled. My body was as though it was entombed in cement. Stiff and still, I could see him but not touch him.
I pushed for about one hour. I never felt the infamous ring of fire. The pushing was not nearly as difficult as I imagined. It was all the prep that was hard. This was exhilarating, awesome, spiritual. The baby crowned, and Jenna cheered, “We can see her head!” And then, one more push and the head was out. Another push and she was here, in the midwife’s arms and then placed on my chest. Jenna and I were experiencing such shock and joy that we DID IT, our midwife had to remind us to talk to the baby. We laughed. I cried. We laughed some more. This was the greatest moment of my life. I had never experienced anything so awe-inspiring. A baby just passed through my body. We DID IT! I did it. All my fears—feeling like a failure again, having a second C-section, failure to progress, my ‘small’ pelvic inlet, intense hip pain, uterine rupture, complications with the baby, still-birth, induction were overcome by my trust in myself and my body. And distinctly, I felt overwhelming joy for the fortune to have had this lovely, natural, life-changing experience of giving birth.