I love writing my birth stories. At less than 24 hours post birth I am starting this one, because I don’t want to forget one second of how it all went. I sit here with this precious angel next to me, and I can’t stop reflecting on how he chose to come into this world.
But when you’ve had a bunch of babies, birth stories can’t and don’t really stand completely alone. Writing about this birth feels like the final piece to a puzzle, the last chapter to a book about my childbearing years. What was at first glance the “hardest” birth of them all has quickly become, in many ways, the most significant, profound and life changing. Perfect for the last birth story I will tell.
My birthing history began almost 10 years ago, with a sort of naively wonderful hospital birth that taught me more than I ever thought possible. The second, my first homebirth that brought me passionately into midwifery and serving women. Third, a truly lovely homebirth that taught me different lessons. Fourth, my homebirth that challenged me as I never dreamed of having to transport my newborn son immediately after birth. Fifth, the quickest most textbook, deliciously perfect (home) birth that I had experienced myself.
Birth stories also don’t stand alone in time and space-each pregnancy and birth (I see even more clearly now) was woven from the fabric of my life at the time. The birth simply reflected who I was, where I was, and what I thought about life and birth.
So, seeing this last birth in that light makes so much perfect sense to me. I “knew” this birth wouldn’t be pure and simple, as much as I craved that as a change to my life this past year. I knew, deep down, that it would be a right of passage and that the lessons this babe was bringing were my absolute truths about life and birth. In my conversations with this spirit, I knew this. And his name was born well before he was-he’d be called “True”, for being the beacon and reminder to me of my deepest and most profound beliefs. He told me he would help show me what was “true” about myself, about birth, that which I had been struggling with for months.
And to be honest, I did struggle immensely during True’s pregnancy. Fear, doubt and losing my way in the world seemed to happen regularly, and it would collapse me into such guilt. It was often this little soul that would remind me he was strong, he was here for a reason and if nothing else, was looking out for me too. For the first time, I doubted my body. Not the entire time, but initially, because we had lost a baby to miscarriage only months before. It took me a solid while to trust that True would not and did not want to go anywhere, assuring me that he had strong intentions to incarnate in this form. On the other hand, this was probably my most physically healthy pregnancy. For this first time, it seemed like I was eating enough. I gained at least 50 lbs. (didn’t look at the scale past a certain point, so I don’t really know) and felt really good.
And now the birth story-
He was “due” only the day before, but since all the others were a bit early, it was the longest I have waited! Typical 6th baby; nights of contractions leading up, but they’d quit by morning and I’d wake up pregnant. I got the feeling time and time again that it would be a slow build up to labor, and even though I “wanted” a super, quick and easy birth, I wasn’t so sure I would get it.
Went to bed on May 18th with the typical run of contractions, although more pressure than normal. Stopped somewhere through the night, and started up again at 5:30 am on May 19th. Somewhere in me I knew this was the beginning of “it”-but I had no idea how long it would last and if this babe would come today or even tomorrow. It just had that “different” feeling, even though the contractions were totally irregular and would even stop for 15-20 minutes at a time. Kind of how my fifth labor started out, but even less predictable. Still no mucous or blood or anything to reassure me, so I just went about my day as best as I could.
At about 2 pm, I laid down in bed with Belgium to see if I could rest. It was difficult to remain still during contractions, and I thought, “Really? Already?” True always liked to hang out on my right side but at this precise moment I felt him move forcefully to my left side. Literally minutes later the contractions got more regular.
By 4 pm, I knew this was “it” but still not predictable. However, the pressure was increasing. I knew I didn’t want a midwife there, but I did want my friends in addition to my husband. I called my friend Margo to come and also my friend Jenni who is a pro photographer. I hadn’t totally decided if I was comfortable with pictures but I thought she could come for now at least…with both of them I hated having to make the “phone calls” (even though I love them both!) just from that element of feeling like people would be here “waiting” for me. (And not that they felt that way at all, that’s my own baggage!)
They arrived shortly and left me to my business of laboring. I labored outside on at least 3 of our decks, downstairs, upstairs and was very pace-y. I used the large tub in our bathroom, listened to music, listened to hypnosis. A lot like how I live, actually. Always busy, never resting, always on the move.
I wasn’t uncomfortable. In fact, several times, I thought it really wasn’t painful or awful or unbearable at all. I just kept needing to change my coping tactics, and even so, that was working fine. My midwife brain would look down on myself, as much as I was trying to stay out of that analytical brain-I couldn’t help it! The paranoid side of me felt like WHY was this taking so long (even though it really wasn’t) even though I knew deep down everything was normal and fine. There was nothing wrong at all, my baby and I both were doing perfectly. The only problem was my expectation or hope that the labor would be shorter, or needed to be for a 6th baby. My midwife brain assessed the situation as normal too; I watched myself deal with longer and stronger contractions, I never listened to baby but I felt him move and knew he was doing fine.
By 6 pm, I knew there was no going back. I labored in the bathroom (my sanctuary) quite a bit. Even brought my computer in so that I could put on music. Lit a candle and filled up the jacuzzi tub to see if that would help. It was getting a lot harder, but I remember thinking I wasn’t as physically close as I would like; mostly because I wasn’t minding hearing the music and I was still able to text on my phone! However it was getting rough and I was still wrestling with this idea that things should be moving so much more quickly than they were. My expectations were causing me undue fear. At one point, I even asked my friend Jenni (the photographer, although she has birthed 2 babes) if this would be over soon. All I wanted to do was get this baby out and hold him. It just felt like the longest time to wait and it wasn’t getting anymore comfortable.
I was starting to feel a little grunty around 7 pm…but definitely not full on pushy, in fact it came and went. My midwife brain just told me it wasn’t time yet, no worries. I got this feeling of surrender and just told the baby I was giving up all control; he could do what he needed to do with no fight from me. I was laboring in my room alone, when at 7:30pm I gave a tiny push and my water BROKE all over the wood floor. In all the births I’ve attended, I have never seen that much water. It was clear, and it gave me the courage to go on, knowing that it couldn’t be too long now. (I’ve never had a labor where my waters opened this early. With all the others it has been as I was pushing, and so this was new. I realized later that it definitely added to the physical intensity that was to come. When it happened, all I could think was, “Good! It shouldn’t be too long now!”) I was also able to see outside myself a bit and recognize what’s “normal” for me at this point- I was feeling shaky, and looking for reassurance that I could indeed do this. I’ve done this with every baby I’ve had, and I saw the humor in it this time.
About 15 later, I started to push involuntarily, but again not with every contraction. It would either feel really good or really not good. I had “planned” (along with my hope for a quiet, fast and peaceful birth!) that I would not push this time, but rather hope and pray for the fetal ejection reflex. I had experienced that with my 4th and 5th births, and although it was a scary sensation, it was so much less effort and trauma than my previous births where I really, athletically pushed. But this baby was asking me to push. I listened to this voice, and followed it. Lesson learned (again); being stuck on a vision of exactly how you think your birth should go generally isn’t helpful.
At first it felt really good to push-but after 20 minutes or so I began to feel frustrated, like nothing was happening. My brain went into fear mode again, and I panicked. I feared this baby wouldn’t come out-that everything I believed about birth maybe WASN’T true and that I would need help I couldn’t get. I was pushing and pushing, attempting to focus but feeling utterly defeated. I had never, ever, in 5 births felt this way before. Sure, pushing hadn’t always been pleasant (my second came out with his hand next to his face-that makes for some painful pushing!) but this was downright frustrating. My brain kept saying maybe this is not normal for a 6th baby- and I was caught in the crux of my own issue. Because if I HAD had a midwife there, it’s likely I would have felt from her that maybe this WASN’T normal. Then where would I be? Instead, I cried and asked my husband to encourage me. I knew at that moment that it was up to me. I wanted this baby out. But the only way was for me to get him out. I felt my fear, very real. I am sure I looked it, too, for at least a second. I took some deep breaths, some Rescue Remedy and knew I must move on. This baby was coming out hell or high water.
After pushing in the tub, I hopped out quickly and I grabbed my bed and went into a deep squat, pushing sort of wildly. Jason supported me so wonderfully, just quietly whispering that I could do it, that I was almost there. But still, no head. Not even a sliver.
The deep squat was killing my legs. I am not a squatter and so I laughed later ay my choice of position. However, I made it into the squat quite well at the moment and remembered instinctively that I must have needed whatever extra space that afforded me. It was both terrifying and relieving-my body felt out of control with these pushes, yet I was SO determined to hold him. I don’t remember in previous births caring that much about the baby at this point in labor, but in this one, it was what kept me going. With every push I visualized his head moving down and I kept seeing and feeling what it was going to feel like when he was out. It was either that intense visualization or giving into my fear that I was not going to be able to do this.
Still not feeling like I was making progress, the baby passed my rectum (we all know what THAT means!) and I took it to be a good sign. Then the slight burning up inside, good. With the next push I felt that inexplicable feeling as the head starts to fill up that space, and then grows. I felt the wrinkled part of his scalp as it rolled forward and was amazed. It was happening. I pushed with the next push for a lot more of his head, and then used all the patience I had left to just leave the rest to my body, all the while standing and supporting my body and his head with my hands. I was almost there, deep breath, I could taste it.
With the next contraction the rest of his head slipped out. I asked for a mirror to check his color but mostly I wanted to see his precious little face!! I leaned forward onto the bed, his head out, just waiting. I remember Jason telling me something-I realized later he was just encouraging me but at the time I thought he was wondering where the rest of the baby was. I muttered something about needing to rest, and I felt the baby rest too as he shifted and negotiated his next and final move out.
As I felt the next and last contraction surge, he rotated, some fluid spurted out and I reached down to catch him even though I couldn’t actually see what I was doing! As soon as he was out I bent with him to the floor; placed him down for just a second before I picked him back up again and smothered him with kisses. THE moment I live for and the reason I’ve birthed 5 times and love to watch other women experience the same! The smell and taste and goo of vernix and fluid were everywhere-on my lips and nose and I kissed him and talked to him. He had pooped on the way out, so I was covered with that too, but he was alert and coming around really fast. It’s amazing how the instinctual things a mother will do with her baby at birth are also exactly what the baby needs!
I was so relieved. And so proud and happy. And now so sure that following my heart was what I needed to do-even though it was a challenge. I delivered my placenta within 5 minutes or so, hardly bled at all, and was just generally in shock with the enormity of the whole experience.
I see True’s birth as perfect-not because I didn’t have anything to deal with, but because I did. Conquering my fears, my demons from the whole entire last year was the theme of my life-of this birth. There was no was of escaping it, or knowing how it would play out, exactly. But it was there, and I am that much braver and more confident and trusting on the other side. That I am truly powerful; that I can do anything. That I know what I believe about birth.
True’s birth has given me a whole new confidence; after 5 kids I didn’t think myself unconfident, but I’ve been shown how much farther there is to go. I am complete trust, in complete trust of this tiny person that has shown me. Experiencing True’s labor and birth has been a profound teaching gift for me. We needed to do it the way we did; and not a smidge different or a moment sooner or later. It was the most PERFECT birth; in so many ways, much more sophisticated with it’s teachings than anything else I have experienced. With it came peace about the rest of my life right now; that I know who I am, what I want and where I am going. I know what I believe and birth and the women I serve. I know where I belong and where I do not belong. And for this, I thank this babe.
Perhaps, needless to say, I am done with this amazing chapter of my life. I could not have asked for a more beautiful and blessed childbearing decade, and now I look forward to raising all of these spirits. I am so grateful for my babies, my births and for the profound lessons I have learned. I look forward to the next chapter; which is to be even more sincere and true in my intent to serve women in the glorious world of birth.