This last pregnancy was going to be a breeze...this was my fourth baby after all, i had home birthed, i was a HypnoBirthing practitioner, was in a traditional midwifery program, and i had been working as a doula for the past few years...so i knew pregnancy and birth and i trusted the process. I remember feeling sorry for women who thought of birth as a painful event that one had to "get through" in order to meet their babies. I was above all that fearful-of-birth business ....at least until i hit the eighth month and realized that I had to do it again!
The fear crept in and stayed awhile... I remember at night, waking up to the feeling like i needed to escape my body, but i couldn't move. And sometimes it felt like i wasn't able to breathe.
The more fear i felt, the more positive (and some not so positive) birth stories i read, and the more abdominal breathing i did. I practiced my HypnoBirthing daily and listened to positive birth affirmation CDs while driving my minivan filled with MY children. Thats right, the three previous children i had already birthed quite fearlessly. Why now? I think the fear came from: 1) the thought of being out of control, and not being able to surrender, 2) I've given birth before, so i know its intensity, and 3), attending births during my pregnancy gave me a whole new perspective on the variations of how birth can go.
I had had three empowering births, and I had gotten all those lovely endorphins and oxytocin to help me feel euphoric and totally blissed out and bonded to my babies. I remembered those parts so well, and when we were planning on having a fourth, all i thought of was that highly addictive euphoria at the end!
I liken it to a druggie (hello birth junkies!) who will do anything to get that feeling from the next hit. We forget the "sensations" a little while after birth since we are totally high on LOVE!
So i continued on my journey embracing the birthing process for what it was, and practiced surrendering. I did it over and over and over again...since its easy to stop surrendering. I learned how to focus on the now, while being thankful to God for the opportunity to take part in another birth, which He made me able to do. My biofeedback sessions were amazing and gave me some incredible tools for life, not just birth. I also had chiropractic adjustments once a week, massage therapy and acupuncture. I was mostly ready.
The last day of January came and i felt prepared emotionally and physically to birth...i had faith, courage and TOOLS! At around 6:30 pm that Monday evening as i made dinner for my family, i had started to get some mild contractions ( i won't use the HypnoBirthing speak here), and i knew this was it. I got excited at the thought of meeting my baby and i was SO DONE with being so huge. The contractions came and went, not in a particular pattern for a few hours and then started to get painful around 9 ish. I called my midwife and then wrote a little letter to my baby...one of my rituals i do when i go into labour. When we tucked the kids into bed we told them they would be meeting their baby in the morning, and they found it hard to believe! (My six year old told his dad that he doubted it). My other births had gotten faster and faster, and with my last birth being about an hour and a half i thought this baby would be born in January.
We got the birthing pool up and ready, i stayed out of it as long as i could and laboured using the "lift and tuck" for my back labour, and got my husband to massage...er, punch...my lower back, which is our standard labour "system" we've done every time. One of my boys called down from his bedroom,"Mom, are you having birth?"
It was at the point when i had to use "vocal toning" (ie: yelling the 'ahhh' sound) during my contractions that i thought i was near and got into the birth pool. My midwife came and got everything set up, ...and my contractions slowed to 5-6 minutes apart. I was comfy in my pool with my Ray LaMontagne and Jack Johnson playing, and i thought that the baby would soon be out... heck, what was i worried about..I could do this!
When the second midwife arrived i asked her to check me to see how dilated i was ( i was dead against this before)...I was ONLY 3! Labour had just begun.
My husband made coffee for the midwives, our children slept and i held onto the side of the tub for dear life. They were strong and coming closer together. I took my Rescue Remedy...don't know why, i wasn't afraid, i was in freaking pain! My labour went from the dreaded back labour that i had always had, to the feeling of my hips being pulled apart like wish bones after a Thanksgiving dinner. I couldn't breathe into the pain or through it, i only felt like yelling (i mean vocal toning!).
My midwife thought that maybe i should get out to speed things up...like climb stairs or Mount Everest..sure, no prob. I got out and headed to the bathroom, frantically searching for walls to brace myself against...yelling my head off the whole time. I felt like i was going to go crazy if i had to do this much longer...and realized i needed a plan. So i yelled at my husband to stop looking at me, and holed myself up in my cave. I sat on that toilet, put my feet on the stool, and welcomed every feeling, every sensation, and just "observed" them, i didn't judge those cute little contractions as pain..not one bit. For about an hour and a half i was zen. I was SMILING. I thought i got the freakin' golden ticket...everything clicked and i "got" what surrendering through pain was, i would be the best hypnobirther ever.
Then I needed a new plan.
When I had gotten cold enough and my bottom too numb to feel, I went back to the pool. My little birth spa. HA. The sensations went rip roaring through every cell south of my belly button. I felt that I needed to bear down with every contraction. I asked to get checked again. 5 cm. I wished she had lied..nope, I wished I hadn't asked. The problem was this; my little man had part of the bag of waters in front of his head, so his head wasn't putting very much pressure on the cervix. Maybe thats why so much pressure in my hips?
Plan..plan..needed a plan! My husband got in the pool and punched my lower back harder than my midwife had ever seen someone want to be punched(counter pressure at its finest!) while I held onto the sides and bore down....yes, I pushed this early. This is how I got through the labyrinth of my labour.
Ray and Jack continued to sing, the midwives did paperwork and had a little nap, and it felt very comforting to be doing this at home. Comforting in a bittersweet sort of way.
At 4:30 am, I got out of the pool so my midwife could check to see if my cervix was swelling from all that bearing down I was doing (it wasn't) and I wanted to know if my self checks were accurate (they weren't). I was at 5 and a half cm...I'm thinking the "and a half" was just to make me believe my body had done SOMETHING in the last hour and a half. My midwife asked if I wanted her to break the water bag, and I said a big "YES!" The baby was down low enough so there was no risk of chord prolapse, and I had laboured through the night. I wanted to meet my baby.
As soon as she broke the bag he descended quickly. So quickly that they couldn't find his heartbeat for a couple of contractions. I went from side lying on my left side, to the right side to standing until they finally found those blessed heart tones. So relieved!
I was on autopilot. I got down on my knees and held onto the side of the pool..I never did get back in. I pushed for a few more contractions and when I felt the feeling of a huge rock coming out my bum, I knew it was almost over! Oh blessed be. Ezra slid out into his father's arms and I heard his loud cry belt out from his little body (little-ish, 9'3 isn't so small!) My baby was here! I remember saying, "Am I dreaming? Is this for real?"
Birth is such a surreal, ecstatic (out of body) event. Birth has taught me so much about myself, and about how pain is an important part of the birth process just as it is in life. Fear loses its power when we learn how to TRUST.
After Ezra was born I laid down and held him for the first time, drinking it all in, so excited to have these first moments with him. I stared into his sweet little eyes, and realized how much we already knew each other.
My three year old son woke up first, surprised that there really was a baby in my belly. Then the other two woke up and ran down the stairs to meet their new baby. Immediate love and acceptance for their new brother.
I am thankful.