...and now I'm CRAVING birth again....I can't believe I have to wait another 200+ days!! ACK!
My midwife has sent out a message to ladies who have used her services, saying that she is putting together a book of birth stories to keep at her center...so I got caught up in reading and editing mine before sending it! Here is my birth story from my last birth...maybe other people want to share theirs, too? Might be fun!!? You guys I'm SO excited now!!!
In these last few days since the birth of my son, I've been examining what it means to give birth to someone. I have always been a lover of language...but as the experiences in my life have grown more and more deeply spiritual...falling in love with my husband, giving birth to children...I find that language is harder for me to wrap around these experiences...and even when I think I've found the right words to describe something, I often am not completely satisfied with the "fit" of the word to the experience.
So, in doing my best to put an accurate wording to what being a mother feels like for me...I have come up with this:
Point of Origin
Really...that is what a mother is. The point of origin for so many things...most important, this little person, this little life. I am the place on the map, where my children's journey began. There is nothing before my womb (in this world?) for this person...this is where the story begins. Babies are born of labor and love and like the hero of their own marvelous tale, this person springs forth on to the world to blaze their trail into the unknown...exploding out from our bodies to effect the universe in lovely splashes of light and love and passion we can not know before it manifests....and we, here, mothers...are the place from which this magic, this "energy of unknowns" emerges. The star on the map. The beginning place. The point of origin for all this person will become.
And so...the beginning of my sons own story on this earth began. It was the morning of November 8th, before sunrise and I was hugging my baby girl Avery in bed. I was having some mild cramping feelings that I was ignoring...until I felt a trickle. I blinked a couple of times, annoyed at the thought of waking up, and held my baby girl closer as I registered what had happened...I had peed my pants a bit. "Damn" I thought to myself. My beautiful daughter lay sleeping beside me like an angel and like any mother in her right mind...pee or no...I refused to surrender any precious scraps of sleep which may still exist for me in that morning to the pleas my bladder was sending me, to get up and make way to the bathroom. I rolled over. I shut my eyes. Another trickle. Damn it! And then...another thought..."hmmmm, laying in bed with trickles?". I did not have the sensation of peeing either time...maybe this was..."no no, don't be silly". But in those moments of half sleeping, half wondering...I thought to myself "today would be a good day for a baby". I got up. Another trickle. Now my interest was piqued. I made my way downstairs to the bathroom. It was six in the morning.
I used the bathroom first, so that if I kept having "trickles" I could rule out an overflowing bladder as the culprit. As I stood up...more fluid! I opened my jar of nitrazine paper and tested a bit of this fluid...I decided the result was inconclusive...looking back now, it was definitely positive! But I have learned from my own experience and from the countless birth stories I've read, that the first real stage of labor is often strong denial! I doubted my water had broken just as strongly with Avery's birth and with her I had giant gushes! I continued to have trickles and to test the fluid coming out of me...and about 4 nitrazine test strips later, I knew my water was broken and leaking like crazy. It had begun!
The rest of the early morning was very calm and peaceful. My home was nice and toasty, light frosting on the trees outside...melting away with the rising sun to reveal what would actually be a really gorgeous day. The lake was calm and the breeze mild. I really was ready for him to come that afternoon, but I tried to keep peaceful as I knew that, as it had been with Avery, my actual laboring could be far away or even the next day! We ate cheese eggs and bacon for breakfast and putzed around the house. We went for a wonderful hike in the woods to try and get some contractions coming and to pass the time. We went down to the lake and climbed into the lake bed on the side of the lake which goes down during the winter months...we mucked around in the mud and all of us got absolutely filthy! We found treasures and sat on logs looking out at the beautiful water and woods and we enjoyed our time together. The dogs were filthiest of all and truly happy about it! We came home and spent a while getting us all clean...everyone needed a bath! I ate some clam chowder, homemade by a friend with love...and it warmed me greatly. But it was at around this time, lunch time, that I started to really wish more was going on. As much as the final weeks of pregnancy stretch out...the last hours, before active labor, seem to go on for an eternity! I was losing fluid at a pretty constant rate at this point...but still not having much action in my uterus!
As evening fell, I knew it wouldn't be til the next day that my precious boy would make his entrance. I made a delicious beef roast, nice and rare...and when it was done, carved into thin slices for some delicious roast beef sandwiches with gravy and sauteed onions. As night fell...I knew I needed to rest, because I would probably be laboring all morning...and I felt it would come on early. So, after watching some clips of SNL on Hulu with Colin and cleaning up a few things around the house...I decided to tuck in for the night sometime after nine.
I woke up at 3am with some "real" feeling contractions. Not painful...but they felt like they were doing work. I fought with myself about getting up...I knew I should stay in bed and try to go back to sleep, but I was too excited. I stayed for a bit, but got up and came downstairs at around 4:00am to start my day. It was so nice to be awake and alone in the still of the morning. The sky was just beginning it's change from nighttime black to the beautiful dark, dusky indigo of predawn morning time. The house was so quite, the hush of sleep was still upon the whole place and I was happy to have the time alone to collect my thoughts. I was having mild contractions, nothing great, hard to lay down through...but my body was moving in a good direction and I was happy for it.
At around 6:00am, Avery woke up and immediately requested 101 Dalmatians...which is her very favorite movie and is pretty much the only thing she watches, since we don't have TV here. Colin woke up and we ate breakfast. I knew we were going to be having a baby soon and while I still could I busied myself around the house getting last minute things done. It was around 8:00am that things started moving from zero to about a hundred miles per hour! I should mention that it was also around this time that an unbelievable fatigue settled on my body...I regretted waking up at 4:00am SO much...I was beyond tired.
I was starting to get contractions which felt much more intense. I was still walking and talking through them, but in the back of my mind I was focusing through them a bit. I decided to call the midwife and get the birth pool there. At around 30 weeks into my pregnancy, I enlisted the services of a wonderful midwife to help me should I need it after my birth. I was not, as I wasn't with Avery's birth, interested in someone fussing with me or “coaching” me during my labor and birth...but I do so love midwives and think that having an experienced eye on things “just in case” allows mama to relax and go with the birth flow. Our midwife is a wonderful, wonderful lady. She is very active in the natural birth community and has her own little (absolutely gorgeous!) birth center about twenty minutes from my home. She respected very much my desire not to be bothered during my birthing time and I really appreciated that. She didn't give me a hard time about it or feel the need to bug me a lot while I was focused on birthing...she is a really awesome lady. She is younger, very crunchy...also very beautiful and magical looking. She has amazing, clear, honest eyes and a very beautiful soul. I'm so lucky to know her...I wish she knew how lucky I feel to have met her!
Our plan had been for her to bring a birthing tub over to my home at around the 37 week mark...but around that time, she had six women in "green light" (any-day-now status) and only three birth tubs that she uses for home births...so leaving one with me wasn't really an option. Around 8:00am, I thought that Ben would be born around lunch time...and that she should get the tub to me. So, I called the midwife and told her what was up and she said she'd be there within the hour to drop off the tub and then would take off again and wait for me to call her and tell her I needed her. This satisfied me and we hung up both thinking that I'd labor through the morning and give birth sometime around 1:00pm or so. Only moments after I got off the phone with her, I had the sudden and intense urge both to vomit and "make business" on the toilet. I told my husband to grab a small trash can and meet me at the bathroom...which he did, quickly...and it's a good thing too! I sat on the toilet and lost my breakfast in the trash can all at once....and I knew that things were about to get crazy.
My midwife arrived around 9:00am with the birth pool. She took one look at me and said "Oh, so...I'm not leaving!" I was headed into labor land. I couldn't pretend I wasn't. I had gone from 8:00am, laughing talking putzing around the house with random somewhat moderate contractions...to 9:00am, suddenly hanging off the back of a chair, starting to hum my labor song (Ooooooooooo) and using visualization and meditation techniques to focus all my energy down and out. She asked me what I wanted to do. At this point in time, I hadn't checked myself like I wanted to and I wanted her to do it for me. So, I was checked. Around 3cm and stretchy at 9:15am. It was at this point that everyone faded away. Colin went upstairs with Avery to watch 101 Dalmatians again and pal around. The midwife went somewhere to knit or do paperwork or something...and I was how I wanted to be. Alone to walk my birth journey.
Things got so intense so quickly. I was bent over the back of my large wing back chair...moving my hips back and forth...in my mind, my labor guide and "patron saint" of birthing women, Ina May Gaskin, was reminding me in her beautifully wise, crackly voice "Keep your tones low woman, keep your mouth as loose as you want your cervix to be, now oppppeeeennn!"..and I did just that. My labor song was so lovely...so even and nice. Low and deep, it came from the most tucked away part of me. Ooooooooooo, it came out, through my loose, loose mouth. It was not loud...the trick for me is to focus on energy output instead of volume and while noise was coming out of my mouth...all of the energy and vibration of the sound were shooting downward...I visualized the energy, like shooting smoke...downward through my body....to my womb and my baby boy, enveloping him in my beautiful love...circling around him like a soft strong net...and then pulling downward...and slipping out of my vagina. Over and over again...each contraction, out of my mouth, the exhaust from this jet stream of powerful energy...Ooooooooo....and all my spirit and being trailing downward, my very soul was breathing my baby down and out of me.
My contractions were very, very intense. They were one on top of the next...no breaks really. So much like Averys birth. Starting in my back...and then wrapping around me like a vice to the front of my belly...over and over. I felt nearly consumed by them, like the only thing keeping me from being swallowed and washed away in them was that powerful energy shooting out of the bottom of me...like a jet pack, keeping me up up up....I felt like, if I had stopped my labor hum for a moment, stopped shooting that energy out of the bottom of me...I would sink down into the pain and disappear, or die, or implode. Things sped up in my head so fast...Ina May's voice, her loving and firm reminders...my own voice chanting my matra "I am whole, I am peaceful. My body knows and does it's perfect work" - and then, like the paint in one of those spin art machines....everything whirring together, messages mixing up and splattering outward away from me as the only thing I could focus on were the splinters of my life and reflections of light and emotion flashing in my brain. I reached the center of myself...and I can't say what happened there, because it is buried so deep in my heart now. I can feel it...but I can't express it. There is something chilling and amazing about both surrendering and fending off that sort of powerful intensity at the same time...if you fight the intensity, it overwhelms you...if you fear it, it crushes you. You must let it wash over the top of you...while you push it out from underneath you with your bottom half...around and around like that...washing onto and washing away over and over...in a circle of intensity, spinning you like a pinwheel...like holding a tiger by its tail and running and running in a circle...it's there, it's powerful...it is behind you coming up on you all the time and in front of you, slipping away all at once...you can't stop, you can't stop it, you can't think, once you're in the thick of it...you can't think your way out of it...you have to feel your way through it. Allowing this intensity to wash over you and somehow, keeping your body so relaxed and still, as if the rushes have little or no effect on your physical self...allows for the most marvelous things to happen inside of your heart and head. Your uterus becomes time...I don't know how to say what it is that I mean by that. For me, my understanding how my uterus works, that in the absence of fear and struggle, it can work so smoothly that it doesn't cause you pain to birth, was the most critical aspect of preparing for enjoyable natural birth. I allow myself, in the beginning, to focus on what my uterus is doing...feel the rhythm of it's layers and let that rhythm be like the ticking of a clock in the background. Strong mind, allowing your mind to be so strong that you can step away from your physical self and into another world...is for me, the thrill of birth. Challenging myself to have the courage to believe, in the heat of that intensity, that my physical self and mental/emotional/spiritual self are two completely separate beings to the point where they can have two completely separate experiences all at once...and to abandon that physical self and live in my body as my spiritual self completely. In all my life, my two births are the only times I've been able to exist completely and solely as my spiritual self....it's mind blowing. I found in my first birth and my second...that the door to that place, at least for me, only appears within when I stopped focusing on edging out the "pain"...and instead, stopped believing in it...saw it only as energy, renamed it...and flowed with the energy of it. I'm sad that I will never be there again, in that amazing center of myself...I know that there is something in me, left behind from my two journeys there...but I will never give birth again, so I know I can never go back there. In a small way, I am relieved to know I will never again feel that level of intensity...it takes so much out of you....but I long for that experience, the trade off, getting to see my own insides with such clarity...being faced with a situation so intense that it allows for that test of "strong mindedness"...that's worth the intensity.
Words began to come back to me in my mind at some point...I was coming out of my center, out of my fog. I looked around and noticed the room again. The trees were so beautiful...we have double sliding doors overlooking the lake in our living room...and the water looked so calm. The hills and forest across the lake seem to go on forever and somehow they seemed to tell me, or remind me, that this was but a moment in my life and that it would end...and that thought comforted me and gave me strength. The breeze coming around the house made the trees dance slowly, like beautiful gypsies around me, they felt encouraging...their energy was totally massaging the house around me...and the cozy warmth of the house was, in turn, massaging my body. I was inside...but I felt like I was outside...I could feel the mountain and all its rock and earth, I could feel warm vibrations coming up from the ground. I felt in tune. The contractions were even more intense...but the deepest part of my labor was over, the spiritual journey, the pilgrimage to my mecca...was complete...and I was left with only my physical situation to manage. I was back in my physical form. It was with this return of words, that the return of physical thought, awareness on a conscious level of how I was feeling, also returned. There was a sliver of a moment in there where some voice in my head said "I need this to be over soon" and then, almost immediately after that, the thought "I would be willing to take any medicine she had on her right now". I laughed at myself with that last thought, knowing that it meant I was very close to done (transition) and also realizing how very empty the thought was, how untrue it was. I could hear my husband and daughter upstairs playing. I could hear my midwife shuffling papers somewhere. And, then my own voice, my labor song of "ooooo"s came back into my ears as well. I noticed that the hum had changed a bit....and that at the tail end of each "ooooo", there was a "uuuhhh". So...."Oooooooooouuuuuuuuh". My body was feeling pushy. I called out to my midwife in a calm voice in the same tone as my labor song (trying not to disrupt it)..."Water, push". She understood that I was asking if my birth tub was full. The look on her face when she came back to see was a bit surprised. At the moment it didn't mean anything to me, but looking back I think she was surprised at how quickly things had moved. I think she could hear my "uuuh" and knew my body was feeling pushy...I didn't realize it at the time, but it had only been a bit over an hour since active labor started. It had seemed like the better part of a DAY!
The water in the pool was not ready. My boy would not get the water birth I had planned. Avery was born in the water and I loved it so much...but I am not the maker of the ultimate plan and while I don't know who or what is, I do respect that things unfold as they should. So, I was not unhappy that he would not be born in the water...but I needed to scout out a new place. Moving any part of my body at this time was not good...it interrupted the flow of energy, is what it felt like...so I moved as if in slow motion...imagining the energy around me flowing gently...no sharp movement, because that felt like it threw off balance...and then the flowing energy I felt seemed to wisp away and intense, stabbing sensation came to me all around my midsection. So, I slowly started moving in the direction of the kitchen. The floor plan in my house is an open one, so the kitchen and living room are a part of the same great room that makes up one side of the house. I moved in to the kitchen and I spotted the most beautiful birth stool that my midwife brought. I don't know why, but seeing it brought tears to my eyes and I was filled with the sweetest love and appreciation for her. It really took me by surprise to feel what I did at that moment and I still don't know what it means...but I do love her, she is a kindred spirit, someone I admire and respect very much. So I looked at her and motioned slowly to the birth stool "You think you'll push him out now!?" and I nodded to her. Somewhere in my mind I was aware of Colin coming downstairs. The birth stool was nice and wide....the seat was made out of a slice of tree...beautiful rings visible, bark and all, and cut into a wide half moon shape, with the center cut out of it. It sat about six inches off the ground and it was so very beautiful. I was happy to sit on it. The midwifes assistant (just about a “full” midwife, taking her tests soon and every bit as wonderful as Jeanne), Kate, knelt in front of me. Her energy felt really nice, she is such a happy person...but also embodies a sort of calm competence that feels like "business"...and pushing out a baby is business, indeed.
So, my husband squatted to my side and behind me...the midwives stayed off to the front and I got ready to do something I knew was going to be insanely hard...I got ready to slow things down. There were no contractions, plural, at this point...for the few short minutes I was on the birth stool, it was contraction. Singular. As in one....onnnneee contraction that did not let up. And then, nothing. Absolutely nothing. No feeling of anything for the space of about 45 seconds to a minute. I grinned and thought to myself "Rest and be thankful" I think many birth workers and natural birthers know this part of birth well - that small window of time your body gives you between the intensity of transition and "never ending" contractions...and pushing. I think for many women it is an extremely small space of time….but when you’re IN it, it feels like a day long respite! All at once, resting was over and my body was spitting out this boy of mine. When Avery was born, I just let it happen...and like a cannon ball, she came shooting out of me. There was no pushing, no easing out, no control on my part whatsoever. I knew that it would be very very hard to fight that, but I wanted to try this time because I wanted to try and allow my perineum the time to stretch so I could avoid tearing. Well...there was his head, crowning...my whole body using every last ounce of what it had left to push him from me...and me using every last scrap of mental power I had left to try and make it NOT push him out! This is the hardest thing I'd ever done in my whole life. Ever. I would take my whole labor, TWICE, in exchange for not having to do that part. I don't know how long I kept it there...long enough to sense that one contraction was faded away from me..and that another one was coming...I kept him, right there...easing sloooowly out of me for that next contraction and decided as that one faded that I would let him come on the next one. And it came...and I focused, and I pushed with my whole body. Is there anything like that feeling? Like the feeling of something that large coming through the birth canal and out of you? No, I'm sure there is not. I thought this to myself as I felt that rushing numbness spray out of me and envelope my lower region...I reached down and felt a beautiful, small head as it popped out of me...I knew I tore in that moment...but then, there was his little body....and he was born. At 10:37am. About one and a half hours after active labor began and I was at 3cm! It had been so intense...it was just SO fast and hard...even more intense than my first time, with Avery. And it was over. And I was no longer pregnant.
He was so small..and so perfect. Perfect little head, little arms, out and flailing. He gave out a few hearty wails and I heard soft crying behind me. My daughter had come downstairs to see what the commotion was about and was caught a bit off guard by what she found...a baby popped out of her mama! As soon as my baby boy stopped crying, she did too and she stared at him with a look of awe on her face. Then, she decided that it wasn't all that interesting after all...and went back up to her movie. He pooped all over me seconds after he was born. His cord was nice and long...no nuchal cord (Avery had a double nuchal and I was expecting the same with my son, because he'd been head down, low and spinny for weeks) and great color. His cord stopped pulsing pretty quickly and when it was nice and limp we cut it. I had a lot of bleeding from my tears...but other than that, very normal good bleeding. My placenta came about five minutes after he was born and looked great...very big and slightly heart shaped with a VERY cool tree of life on it. My husband grabbed a Ziploc and we put the placenta in the fridge for me to fiddle with later. I had wanted to rinse and eat a chunk of it immediately, but was busy with the baby and decided to wait.
Very soon after he was born, we noticed that he was a bit grunty with his "out breath". He was taking nice long breaths in...but was having a bit of trouble getting it out due to a bit of "birth stuff" still in his throat. I had to choose...get him to the breast immediately...or spend a little time helping him work some of the gunk out while he was still awake and alert. I decided we could work on our latch later and that I wanted to try a bit of percussion, etc to help him work out his gunk. So...we took turns doing that for about an hour. He got a lot of good gunk out and then totally crashed into a post-birth sleep. He looked like an angel on a cloud. We weight him and measured him (7lbs, 19inches long PEANUT!)...and the midwife did the newborn exam...then we settled in to see what I would need in the way of stitching up.
*Sigh* I didn't tear. I exploded. None of the tears was bad, none of them very deep...just in odd places and a few of them. The closest I can get to describing it, is to ask you to visualize the star like tear pattern that is made when a football team comes bursting through a huge paper sign at a pep rally...you know how they do that? That's kind of what my son did...I think holding him there actually made it worse...if I'd just let him come shooting out of me like Avery, I would have torn like Avery...a nice, simple perineal tear...holding him there and then suddenly releasing him gave me lots of little "bursting" tears off to the sides, etc. So...not bad at all, just more annoying because of where the little tears were, not fun to sit on stitches in those places. But, I'm thankful for not having any bad tears and here, at a week out, the small tears are really just about healed up...they were small. The one larger tear is healing nicely too. I'm using a great comfry tear oil I used with Avery as well and I highly recommend comfry infused oils for healing tears.
While I lay with my new baby sleeping in my arms...I was unaware of my midwife, whizzing around the house, putting all the linens, etc into the washer and draining the tub and packing everything up. I looked up and all at once realized that my house was spotless again, all signs that a baby was just born there were gone....it was just, my house again. I was set up on the couch in warm PJs, in my depends diapers (my very favorite post birth secret!) with my beautiful little family...and so, the midwife looked at me and said..."I'll be back later this evening to check in". And she was gone. And the three of us, were four. It took a long day of working at it to get baby Ben to latch on because we'd missed that "window" right after his birth to get him latched...he was crashed and didn't want to wake up for me. So, every hour or so I rubbed him down with booby to try and get him to wake, root and eat...but he wanted to sleep and sleep and he didn't eat his first meal until 5:00pm that night. He got a perfect latch though and has been nursing like an absolute champ since then.
The past week has been wonderful. My husband has been a great help with grocery shopping and cooking all my meals and keeping Avery happy. Emotionally this time is very different than the first time and with that aspect, my husband has not been as great...he just doesn't know how to understand what it means when I say things like "My body feels empty". He is trying though. There is a lot of adjusting for me to do, having two now. It's hard to see my little girl looking so big...I've had moments where pangs of sadness hit me...it used to be just us, just me and my best buddy girl. Now it's the three of us...she's still my best girl and she's adjusting very well...but my son is amazing too and I'm completely in love with him. My daughter is trying her best to understand what's going on, I can tell...and she's been really sweet to Ben. She loves babies. Nighttime is going well, Avery still has her side of the bed with Dada and Ben and I snuggle on the other side...night nursing has been a dream and I'm so happy to have a little nursling again.
I feel empty, I feel a deep (but not overwhelming or depressing) sense of loss at no longer having this little boy inside of me. I'm glad he's here now so I can smell him and hold him and gaze into his perfect eyes...but the knowledge that I'll never again hold life inside of me, hurts me to think about. I can't wait to get to know him though...to see how he;ll be, what he;ll love...what he'll look like. The future is bright.
And that's my story, or rather, the start of Benjamin's story. As I mentioned in the beginning of the story...sometimes words cannot accurately describe an experience so powerful as birth....I did my best to express what birth is like for me, how this birth felt and effected me. If it sounds a little crazy at some points or doesn't make sense...my apologies. It's so hard to describe some of those feelings with words...so hard. But I hope you enjoyed it anyhow. I loved giving birth to my children...birth is the closest I've ever come to true religion...I've never experienced anything so completely spiritually satisfying and I feel that the major defining moments in my life so far have been these two awesome kids being born. Now...I will raise them and somehow come to find peace with the fact that we are done making babies! :)
November 9, 2009 @10:37am
7lbs, 19 inches long and perfect in every way!