Birth of Luca Qrzwin
I enjoyed the prenatal care I received from a group of midwives at a local hospital. When I reached my due date, I realized that receiving care from a midwife did not protect me from hospital rules that sought to take away my autonomy and prevent me from making intelligent decisions about what would be best for my body and my unborn baby. I was told I would be induced. I heard about how Pitocin gets a bad rap, and how I should just have my water broken when I got induced, because one way or another—via vagina or c-section—I was going to have a baby. I regretted not searching further for a home birth midwife, which is illegal in our area, though available on the black market.
I spent week 41 doing everything I could to coax a baby out of me. I used a breast pump to simulate contractions, took castor oil, used cohosh tincture and tea, walked, bounced on a birth ball, and had sex. I cried a lot, because I felt like I was heading into a c-section, not because I needed one, but because I was not going to be allowed to encounter birth on my own terms. I would be induced, denied food and water, and unable to labor or give birth in water. I’m naturally an optimist, and tried my hardest to be okay with what seemed inevitable, but I couldn’t.
Fortunately, I complained to the right person, because my friend had a friend who is a midwife. She would be happy to take me at 41.5 weeks, and was confident the baby would come out when he was ready. We met with her the day before I was scheduled to be induced, and asked our bazillion questions. My main concerns were with making sure my baby was healthy past his due date and also with my positive GBS status. After talking about methods and philosophies, we felt we had a viable option to what felt like an inevitable c-section: an illegal home birth.
I didn’t go in for my induction. I didn’t answer the phone when the hospital called.
My home birth midwife felt the baby and told me he was off-kilter, and perhaps that was the reason I had yet to go into labor. She prescribed walking a lot, taking stairs two at a time, and doing lunges to try to align him. I did, and it worked. He popped fairly straight and in the right place. He had been bouncing around, sometimes anterior, sometimes posterior, and always off to one side or the other. The midwife stripped my membranes, though she couldn’t get in far enough to do much. Still, I bled a bit, and went to bed feeling hopeful.
The next day, I woke up to what felt like my period coming on. I wasn’t having contractions, but my body felt strange and full of anticipation. I felt nothing indicating impending labor the following day, so I again went through the litany of baby coming forth good juju exercises (minus castor oil—just couldn’t stomach that again), even attempting to sing him out, but nothing doing.
About an hour after I woke up the following day, Tuesday the 15th of November, I had a contraction. A few minutes later, I had another one, and then another one a few minutes after that. Although I’d had six weeks of sporadic “false” labor, it didn’t take me long to realize this was the real thing. I woke my partner Andrew: “I’m in labor!” We were both calm, as was my 11 year-old daughter, but excited. I had been pregnant for 42 weeks and four days, and finally—FINALLY!—the big day had come.
I thought I’d have time and energy to do things around the house before serious labor started, but I found I couldn’t really do much besides concentrate on the contractions, and answer questions between them. My daughter packed clothes for an overnight at a friend’s house, while my partner made arrangements to take the dog elsewhere. While my partner was gone and I was alone, the contractions slowed down and were not so intense. When he returned, however, so did the intensity and the frequency.
I took a shower, figuring it might be my last for a time. The hot water felt fantastic. When I got out, I laid down on the bed, and soon after the midwife came. She checked me and told me I was dilated to 2-3 cm. I was disappointed, as it had felt pretty intense. She told me I was having active labor during the latent phase, and that I should call her back when the contractions were longer, or if I felt I needed her. I got out of bed, because the contractions felt more intense when I was lying down.
After the midwife left, I settled onto the couch, sitting and leaning over a birth ball, with a quilt and a pillow piled on top. My partner was behind me, putting his hands on my back when I felt a contraction. After a few hours, I felt it was time to call the midwife. She came over promptly and checked me again. I was dilated to 3-4 cm. It was a bit discouraging, as I’d been having contractions every three minutes for five hours or so by then. But I was still very happy to be in labor at last, and I knew the pain was going to be more intense later, so I did my best to integrate each contraction, focusing on opening up and relaxing.
The midwife began to set up the birthing pool, as my partner had been providing me continuous support, and I did not want him to leave me. We did not have the connector piece that attached the showerhead to the hose to fill the pool, so the midwife left to find a hardware store. Soon after, my friend Maggie, who was acting as my doula, arrived. I was surprised at how different my preferences to cope with labor were than I had anticipated them to be. I had several cds of relaxing music, but I wanted—needed—complete silence. I had a bottle of massage oil, but any kind of movement on my skin distracted me from concentrating on the sensation of the contraction and relaxing into it. All I wanted to feel was a constant pressure. I did not want my hands held; in fact, I used them as a sort of magick wand to wave away and scatter the pain the contractions brought.
Maggie took Andrew’s place behind me so he could eat some food and get some air outside. I felt incredibly sleepy through most of this, and I do not know how long I was slouched over the birth ball, dozing between contractions, then moaning during them. I was incredibly thankful when the midwife said the birthing pool was ready for me. I stripped off my clothes—no modesty left whatsoever—and climbed in. My partner changed into his swimming trunks and climbed in as well. It took a bit to find a comfortable position. I sat on the pillow inside the pool. It was painful, as was lying down. I remembered reading of the thought that pain was a way my body was telling me that this was not a good position for me. Finally, I took to standing on my knees, facing outside the pool, while Andrew was behind me with his hands providing a firm touch on my lower back. Later, he said he felt like he was giving me reiki, and that was what it felt like to me as well—why I found it very necessary that he be with me.
The afternoon went by with three minute contractions. The midwife had to leave to pick up her child, and checked me before she left. I was dilated to a very stretchy 6. After she left, the contractions picked up in intensity. At some point, my friend Eva arrived, as did extra towels. I was fairly out of it at this point, just concentrating on the contractions—waving my hands around to scatter pain, moaning low to open myself up, and soon it was dark outside. I lost all sense of time. It felt like labor had just begun, but I knew an entire day had passed.
The midwife returned, and said I was dilated to 7 cm. After a while, I was having a hard time with the pain of the contractions. I could hear my voice rising and I felt my own fear. If I was in a hospital and had been offered pain relief, it would have been very hard for me to say no. As it was, this was not an option, for which I am thankful. But I felt I could no longer keep on top of the contractions. I didn’t know what to do. “I just need a five-minute break,” I said. I laid down in the pool, as did my partner, and he put his arms around me.
I thought about what was happening, about all the thousands of women around the world who were also giving birth at that moment. I felt a contraction coming on, and I acknowledged it, but thought, “I’m not ready.” It evaporated. I thought about creation in general, and how it doesn’t seem like birth should hurt. I felt at some primal level that we humans had lost the way to give birth without pain. Another contraction crept up, and I again said “I’m not ready,” and it melted away. I thought about how humans have been giving birth for millions of years, and how this was a completely normal process. The less fear, the less pain, I knew. Another contraction began that dissipated when I again stated I was not ready. I steadied myself. Finally, I was ready. I stood up on my knees and waited for the next contraction.
I found myself staring at a bottle of coconut water, of all things. It had some sideways writing on it that I could not—did not want to—decipher. The contraction came on, but instead of feeling it in pain and fear, I surrendered and let it wash over me. My hands began to conduct the contractions. I put my hands together in a circle and spread them apart, and I could feel myself opening up inside. I pushed one hand down, and could feel the baby moving down. If the pain got intense, I scattered it away by moving my hand back and forth. I breathed through the contraction instead of moaning and yelling through it. It was far more intense, but I felt again like I could handle it. I could see/feel my birth attendants looking at each other, but I did not feel like I could explain what was happening.
After a while of doing this, I asked the midwife if she would recheck me. She asked me what was going on with my contractions. Had they stopped? I told her they were more intense, but I was better able to handle them. She told me I had dilated to 9 cm. I was in transition, I knew. All this time, I felt I was experiencing this birth in two places at once. I was here in this physical world of Earth, feeling the sensations of labor pains and warm water and loving touch from my partner. But I also felt I was in some strange world where energy swirled; I thought this must be the primal state that so many women feel during labor. I felt I was equally in both. I was wondering if the primal part would take over at some point, but it did not. I was fully present in the world of sensation and also in the world of primal energy. And I was still staring at the bottle of coconut water!
After a while of this, I felt the contractions again getting to be more than I could handle, and I told the midwife this. She asked me if I felt the baby’s head, and when I reached inside, I could feel a bulge. She asked if I felt pushy, but I did not. She said I could try pushing. After a bit, I did find myself pushing down on a contraction without meaning to. Then I pushed with gusto, though I wasn’t sure how well I was pushing. I told this to the midwife, who directed me to push like I was having a bowel movement. That made it easier! I kept asking if I had pooped, figuring if I did, I was pushing correctly. I don’t think I ever did, but that instruction was quite useful in directing my body.
I stretched my legs to the side while in a half squat, which helped with the fatigue, but they were starting to shake and cramp. Eva and Maggie grabbed my hands and elbows, and I got into a full squat and pushed. I could feel a lip of cervix in front of the baby’s head, so I held it aside while I pushed, and it moved past my cervix. I pushed several more times, until the baby’s head was even with the entrance of my vagina. Meanwhile, Andrew was behind me, supporting the massive hemorrhoids I had sprouted. “Now that’s love!” said the midwife.
My legs by this point were really giving out, as I had been standing on my knees for five or six hours, followed with squats. The midwife suggested I try another position, like lying down. I was hesitant to do this, as any other position I tried hurt when contractions came. She noted that was when my cervix was dilating, and now I was pushing, which was different. It was with relief that I laid back into Andrew’s arms. I enjoyed a quick relaxing break, then grabbed a handle of the birth pool in one hand, and Maggie’s hand in the other, and pushed with all my might. It did indeed feel like I was trying to crap out a bowling ball, a comment I had read several times in reading birth stories.
My friend Eva, holding a flashlight in one hand and a camera in the other, told me she could see the head. I reached down and felt, but it didn’t feel like a head to me. It was something very oddly shaped! She showed me the picture on the camera. Again, it didn’t look like a head, but a weird pointy thing. Two more pushes got the head out. It was intense! I remember smiling with relief. I had been afraid to stop pushing, lest his head keep sliding back up inside. I think the bag of waters broke around this time. The midwife said, “Now the shoulders!” I asked if it would take just one push, and she said it would. I gathered my strength and pushed. Before I knew it, a slimy sticky gurgly grayish thing was on my chest. I was still in the act of pushing, and it was very much a surprise: our baby!
The midwife put a towel around him, and I massaged his vernix-coated body. He gurgled quite a bit, and then eventually cried some. He was a bit limp when he came out, but massaging him helped stimulate him and color him up. I looked between his legs to verify that yes indeed, he was the boy the sonograms had promised. I realized why I didn’t think what was coming out of me was a head—he had a massive cone head! He was still ridiculously cute, in that “this is my baby” kind of way. His eyes were alert. He kicked and kicked and kicked his long skinny legs. I remember those feelings on my ribs and side when I slept. It felt so strange to be feeling them on my arms and breast instead. I pushed out the placenta, which floated in the birth pool in our popcorn bowl.
I felt so grateful that our baby had been born without forced (by situation or protocol) medical intervention. He had been born surrounded by love and peace. We felt incredibly blessed.
7 pounds, 9 ounces
22 inches long
42 weeks, 4 days gestation
born at home, completely natural in water
13.5 hours of labor