What better day to share my birth experience than that of my baby’s first birthday. Happy Birthday, little pal. This is the story of your journey to greet us.
If you’re not into the details, maybe skip this post; cute pictures of the babe at the end, though. 😉
About three weeks earlier, I was online typing, “what do contractions feel like?” Search yielded, cramps. Electrical surges. Indescribable. Stomach cramps, like you had really bad seafood. Waves of pain. Pain. Pain. Indescribable. Bad menstrual cramps. Tightening. I didn’t get a pulse on what to expect so I just let it go. Throughout my pregnancy, that was my main intention. Sometimes I felt like a dirty, soaking sponge smothered at the bottom of a sink full of dirty dishes. So much information, advice, and worse, projection, was stacking, precariously teetering on the verge of collapse. I often needed to retreat into something much simpler. It was too much. Yoga, meditation, birthing class, the expectation of protein consumption hyper-prepared athletes can not consume, lactation classes, all the stuff that babies allegedly needed, and pills. My God, the pills. At one point I was adding perhaps 8 different things to my routine. Six pre-natal vitamins a day, fish oil, iron, and I actually can’t even remember the rest. I felt like I had something new to try to either support some deficiency or combat a symptom, of which there were few and not worth trying to remedy.
And, well, to be more direct, I had a spectacular pregnancy and I should be clear that this is not a sad story. In fact, my intention is to weave together the glory that the experience of childbirth was for me. And, I want this to be as honest and raw as the experience itself.
I had a home birth.
Jesse and I were lucky. Our expectation was not to get pregnant so quickly and like many couples with shared fears, procreation often topped the list. I, like many of my girlfriends, thought it would take a long time. And with an irrepressible sense of adventure after a playful 5K, primary colors now washed down the drain of our shower; some potency played a role in making our little babe in early September.
Since I entered into a partnership with Jesse, I knew I wanted to attempt birthing in water, preferably at home. So, thinking we were ahead of the game, we met with Alexandra, a midwife and a Naturopathic doctor that was walking light. She was just what we had hoped for in a midwife. When we met her in July we suggested we weren’t even thinking of making an effort to get pregnant until February. Then when it came time to call on her in late September after a gut-induced trip to the bathroom to check on the weirdness of my inner workings, she said she was taking a year off of midwifery and gave us the name of her colleague Adeline, also an ND and midwife of their dynamic triptych, Birth, Babies, and Beyond.
Jesse and I figured we should do our due diligence and meet with a few midwives and so we met with one other before Adeline, though after meeting her, there was no decision to be made. We felt comfortable, understood, and trusting. We had a shared philosophy and that, coupled with her expertise, particularly her Naturopathic experience, was everything. She was at that time about 6 month pregnant herself, so, much to our joy, Alexandra decided to come back into the fold and we were now under the care of three fantastic women, including Angela who we would meet later in the rotation of care.
I was at 41 weeks exactly when labor started. I indulged the night before in fettuccini alfredo, which I hadn’t eaten in a year or more and the waitress joked that it might just be the thing to kick-start labor. Whatever it was, it happened at about 2:30 in the morning the following day. I was running to the bathroom every few minutes feeling uncomfortable though not totally aware of why. Was this actually labor or just the weight of well, my weight, feeling uncomfortable at 41 weeks? And I was big. And so was the babe.
Finally, Jesse who had been coming to check on me periodically asked whether he should call the midwives. I wasn’t sure. Then, I emptied the entire contents of my stomach (both ways and simultaneously) while laboring on the toilet. “Call them.”
After hearing Jesse delivering some stats to Adeline over the phone, he came to help clean up the bathroom and while clutching both sides of the walls next to our toilet, I met Jesse’s gaze and said, “If I have to do this for another 20 hours, I don’t think I can make it, pal.” With an empathic and coach-like face, my husband looked me dead in the eye and said something along the lines of, “you can do it, pal.”
What I didn’t realize in the moment is that my body had skipped early labor. I was in the swing of active labor. I heard tales of taking lovely walks in the garden, cooking, dog-walking, cleaning, etcetera during early labor. There was not etcetera for me. Contractions were never less than 5 minutes apart and lasting at least 40-60 seconds. This little meatball was ready so that meant I needed to be ready too.
At some point in the haze of it all, I had managed to move myself from the bathroom to the living room and spent the next few hours on the couch in various positions, hanging mostly solo, inward, in it. I didn’t need anyone to do anything. I was just riding each wave and feeling the power of this incredible experience pushing me further to where I needed to go. I heard chatter around me, but did not see a thing and none of it mattered.
A little on the verge at around 6 am, I asked, “Adeline, please tell me this baby is coming today and not tomorrow.” “Uh, this baby is coming in a few hours,” she said with humored assurance. At that point, I felt relieved and even more resolved. I could do a few more hours. As long as I knew that the finish line was around the corner and not a few more laps around, it was totally doable.
As soon as the tub was ready, I was pretty darn close. So much so that I needed help walking slowly from the couch to the tub which was just a few feet away in the dining room. Relief washed over me as I sank into the warm water. Everything relaxed, except the contractions. They kept coming, fast and strong, though I had resolved not to manage them, or my pain, or the process during the course of my prep for this moment. I really worked hard on finding ways to let go of fear and any idea of control. I aimed to let go as much as I possibly could and get out of my own way. So, I just let my body do whatever it needed to and followed along as instructed.
This was a very busy week for my midwife team. They had five births in four days. All of their mamas, not anticipated at the same time, naturally came due in the same week. And they had two labors happening simultaneously which meant that the two midwives on call had to bring in some pinch hitters because their third midwife was on vacation. Sarah and her intern arrived and got to work, though I couldn’t tell you when. As soon as I entered the tub, Sarah knowingly knelt beside it, smiled and said “Hi, Clara, I’m Sarah.” This was my first time meeting her as she was another well known and respected midwife in the community, and had been the midwife for my midwife Adeline who was here now helping me bring my babe into this world. I was so grateful to have such an experienced and caring team there to support my process.
At this point, they hadn’t checked my dilation, nor did they need to. They were so attuned that all they had to do was listen to my voice to know where I was in the process. They monitored baby’s heart rate when they needed to though essentially, let me guide the process. At one point, without consciously knowing I was ready, I asked Adeline whether I should push. She replied, “Do you feel like you want to push.” Honestly, I cognitively had no idea, but my body knew and so I went with it. I tried pushing on hands and knees in the water and that didn’t feel quite right so I flipped over in a squatting position with Jesse on one side and the intern on another. Adeline said, “I do just want to quickly make sure all the cervix is gone.” So, down the flashlight went, and confirmed I was ready to continue pushing. After a few pushes and some high-pitched noises later, Sarah reminded me that low tones where what I needed to get there, and that totally helped. I focused in on bearing down and accessing my guttural voice. I was crushing the hands of my poor husband on my right and that of the nice intern on my left though it gave me the leverage I needed to push how I needed to. The tub’s bottom was deflated and it was a great benefit because I was able to stabilize and get physically grounded. And for some reason, I loved hearing the intern say “mmm hmmm” with every push, as if we were eating some decadent ice cream. It was surprisingly really soothing and lovely.
After about 45 minutes or so of pushing, baby’s head was born. At this point, I thought this was going to be the easy part. I had heard that the rest of the body just slips right out. Well, my baby’s chest was about one mm larger than the head so I had a little more effort and one more good push to get the rest of the turkey out. This baby was hearty at 9 pounds and 12 ounces.
Thanks to the midwives’ patience with the process and slowing me down when I needed to, I had no tearing. This was experience, awareness, and connection at work and gave me the birth experience I had always hoped for. And so, after 6 hours from start to finish, I was able to welcome my son, August Rhodes in our home. They were a troupe of magical fairies that arrive swiftly and calmly, helped me bring my baby safely and comfortably into this world, cleaned up leaving only the loving energy of what had taken place, tucked us into bed after eating my favorite foods and drifted off into a peaceful slumber together.
August came into this world with gusto and bravery and I bet he will continue to live his life on this path, assured and with clear intention.
Thank you for picking me, Gus.
I am a lucky mama.