by Kristen, USA
Where should this story begin, the story of my first child's birth? Should it start years ago during an amazing summer when I met the man to become my baby's father, and fell in love? Or should I begin later, after a torturous summer and an endless winter, when I learned what it is to forgive, to be forgiven, and what unconditional love really is? Maybe I should start many months ago in a tiny room in a big desert city, where this child of mine was conceived. But I think I will start a few weeks ago, in a tiny home in a small southern city; the day my labor began.
It was unseasonably warm, hot almost to be December 4th. I woke, nine days past my “due date,” and went to check my email. I felt the familiar braxton-hicks contractions, but they had a different sensation to them, an almost crampy feel. I thought, “could this be it? Should I call Charlie? Should I get Curtis home from work?” I decided not to. I played on the computer a little longer and had a snack. Curtis called to check on me and I didn't say anything. I didn't want him to get excited if it was nothing.
I did my daily yoga and felt the difference between that day and other days. As I listened to my relaxation tape, I was sure something was happening. Around 2 o'clock I went to the bathroom and found some pink-tinged mucous on the tissue when I wiped. I decided to call Charlie. I told her excitedly what had happened, that I thought I was about to have a baby; she told me to keep her informed, but not to call Curtis home. I spent the afternoon fluttering around the house, feeling very excited. I tried to play my computer game, but my attention kept wandering. I was so excited.
Curtis called to see if I would mind him staying late to talk with a buddy from work. I told him that I thought that something was finally happening and he assured me that he was on his way home. When he got here we were both a bit nervous and I got fussed at for not telling him what was happening the first time he called. We had tuna salad sandwiches and spinach salad for dinner, then Curtis read me two stories from Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors collection. It was surreal almost, and the excitement and anticipation hung thickly around us.
Charlie called around nine-thirty and asked me to time contractions for her. I used a little contraction timer utility on my Palm Pilot; they were five to six minutes apart and around fifty seconds long. I called Charlie back and she told me to go to bed and sleep until I couldn't sleep anymore. I decided to follow her advice, since throughout my pregnancy she told me repeatedly to go to sleep in early labor if I could!
I slept, but lightly, from around ten-thirty until twelve-thirty, then I couldn't sleep anymore, mainly from the emotions that were bouncing around in me. The contractions had an edge by then, but I could still handle them alone. I went sit on the toilet and my body proceeded to flush itself out to make room for the baby's imminent decent. I decided the toilet felt nice and I camped out there until around two. By then the contractions are starting to bite; I called Charlie back and she told me that she was on her way and was sending Alex, the apprentice, over. Alex lives in our town, so she was only a short drive.
Curtis was engrossed in a computer game and hadn't slept when I did, which he regretted later! After getting off the phone with Charlie I went to sit down and I told him I needed him. He sat on the couch with me, holding my hand as I took deep, relaxing breaths. The next little while jumbles together in my mind. When Alex arrived Curtis and I moved to the bedroom, which was lit by one little lamp and was quite cozy. We stayed in the bedroom until Charlie arrived around four-thirty followed shortly by Lisa, another assistant. We decided to continue to work in the bedroom and I was able to breathe quietly through contractions and smile as I listened to the women out front. Charlie went over equipment and supplies with them, but their occasional giggles reminded me of a slumber party.
When I emerged from the bedroom to go to the bathroom, Charlie suggested that I take a shower. I didn't right away, but after a bit I decided it would be nice. As I squatted and let the hot water hit my back the contractions started coming harder. One hit and I could only clutch Curtis' hand as I sank down onto my knees. As the contraction passed, we heard a loud popping noise and the lights flickered off and back on, followed by surprised cries from out front. Curtis went to investigate, leaving me to deal with the next contraction. As I finished it and blew it away, never to return, he came back in and told me they tried to use the bad eye on the stove. I grinned, trying to imagine their faces, and Curtis went to the breaker box to get the stove working again. When the water got cold, far too quickly, I got out of the tub. Any sense of time left me after this point and I began to vocalize with each rush, letting my voice help me relax. Charlie estimated active labor by when I started to moan through each contraction, which she later told me was around six in the morning. Curtis kept telling me what a good job I was doing and how amazing I was. It helped me so much. I cannot express how much having him there helped me. Even now if anyone comments that he didn't do any hard work during my labor I am quick to correct that person. He was my support the entire time.
I headed back to the bedroom after my shower and labored lying on my left side. I realize now that it is the position I was always in as I listened to my relaxation tape during pregnancy – a comfortable position I've trained my body to relax in. Wow, another of those amazing things. Charlie asked to check my dilation to see if I should consider walking around. I was 7cms when she checked, the one and only time she did. After laboring in the bed for a long time I went back to the bathroom and again found the toilet to be a comfortable place to labor. Alex and Lisa brought me toast and a scrambled egg and I was able to nibble on the toast and sip some apple juice, but the egg went uneaten. I was starting to feel a little queasy, and though I never felt full-blown nausea, this was probably transition. Charlie asked me to get back into the shower to help me move along some and because it would comfort me. I stood that time, warm water running over me, and clutched Curtis each time a contraction came. I knew his sweater must have been getting very damp as I wrapped my arms around him, and somehow I focused on that thought while I was in the shower, strange what I picked to focus on! The water got cold again, and again, it was too fast. We moved out of the shower and across our tiny house slowly. We were in the kitchen and I had to stop and hang on Curtis. Standing made it so intense, so hard to stay on top of. Charlie wanted me to continue to stand, but I needed to be lying or squatting.
Finally we made it back to the bedroom. I labored on my side again, burying my head into Curtis as he lay beside me. I labored some in a supported squat as well and at one point I draped across the birth ball. I continued to labor in bed, favoring my side the most. At one point there were hands all over me, rubbing my legs and feet, it felt like my entire body was being massaged. It was wonderful. It was then that I was glad to be surrounded by women, women who seemed so wise to me. I drew strength from them and from my wonderful Curtis.
After what seemed like ceaseless contractions I began to wish the baby would hurry, but my beautifully stubborn child seemed to need some help moving through the birth canal. Charlie asked me to push. It was hard work pushing for my baby, and a couple of times I thought that I couldn't do it. The one time I said it Charlie told me that I was doing it! I was pushing, almost oblivious to the world when I heard another popping sound. Alex, who was sitting on the birth ball, had just caused it to explode. Everyone was laughing, even I found it funny, but it wasn't until after the birth that I truly laughed – then I was working with my baby, and that took my attention.
I continued to push and a few minutes later I heard the third popping sound of the day, accompanied by a gushing feeling. My water bag exploded and sprayed Charlie in a jetstream of baby fluids. Again there was laughter, comments that I would not be outdone by an exploding birth ball. I smiled too, but mainly enjoyed the slight relief of pressure. The pushing was blending together; it felt like an eternity. I was hot; I was tired. My body started pushing on its own. That awesome power scared me, my body was bearing down on its own – it was like I was rushing along in a river and couldn't stop. Lisa gave Curtis a feather and I blew on it to help slow the pushing and let the baby come gradually. It was my focus and it helped so much. I wanted the baby out. I was tired; infinity had passed me by.
At one point the baby's heart rate dropped and stayed down through a couple of heart rate checks. Charlie and Alex helped me move to all fours. The heart rate quickly sped back up and after a few contractions I moved to a supported semi-squat on the bed. Alex held up a mirror and I saw the baby's head begin to crown, a dark wrinkled spot emerging from inside me. I felt my baby's head, soft, moist – I was awed. I wanted to meet my child.
Charlie suggested standing to help the baby move down more. I hesitated because I feared the pain, but I wanted to meet my lamb. I decided to stand. Charlie told me to hang on Curtis and let all me strength be in helping my baby. I did this. Time began to speed up. Like a waterfall my baby began to rush down the birth canal. The head crowned fully and I screamed my child's head out of me. I felt the fires of this soul burning into this world. Charlie told me to breathe, relax – the cord was around the baby's neck. I dropped all my weight, leaning on Curtis. He reassured me as I let all tension go – took deep breaths – for my baby. Then it was time to push again, and my baby's body rushed out. I was empty. For an instant, I was empty. Then I was stepping over the umbilical cord, Charlie was handing me the baby. I was full.
Somehow we got to the bed. I was on the edge, my bottom hanging over. Blood poured. I clutched my beautiful baby. Charlie asked for a syringe of Pitocin. I knew from our prenatals that it is to help stop the gushing blood. Alex worked my nipples to help; Charlie gave me a shot in the thigh I hardly felt. I was looking at the baby, and at Curtis, who was standing behind Charlie, looking bewildered. Then suddenly he was behind me and we looked at our baby together. I asked if the babe was a boy or girl and Charlie told me to look, since we'd told her we wanted to discover for ourselves. Together Curtis and I looked and we saw that our baby was a girl-child. Then Charlie was helping me get her latched on. I felt as my baby sucked and again I was in awe. The little creature at my breast amazed me. She was radiant.
A minute or so later I got a heavy contraction and Curtis called Charlie, who had gone out front. She came in and I told her it was a big contraction, so she had me push. The placenta gushed out of me, a strange feeling. Charlie helped Curtis cut the cord after it stopped pulsing, then she left us alone with our daughter. We had already decided to name a girl Cassidy. That afternoon was somewhat a blur. I slept and Cassidy slept, and I think Curtis slept too. Charlie, Alex, and Lisa did the newborn check and found Cassy to be 7lbs, 14oz, a big girl! I got cleaned up at some point. The room was cleaned up too. Lisa and Alex worked on that as Charlie fed me another tuna sandwich and a horrid-tasting drink. It was to help restore my energy, and supposedly flavored like tangerines, but I still don't believe that! Suddenly several hours had passed and our house was clean, we were fed, and we were left alone with our new baby daughter. Wow. How amazing she was! We spent some time just being alone and then Curtis called my parents to come see their first grandbaby. They came to see her, but only stayed a short while, then we are alone again, and we fell asleep together in our warm bed.
(NOTE: Know you want a beautiful natural birth, but feel overwhelmed? You're not alone.
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