Monday, June 3, 2013

My home water birth and the Divine

Time to have this baby
I was due on Monday. The Friday before, I decided I wouldn't be returning to work. I was HUGE and had fallen twice in one day. I took that as a sign that I wasn't meant to be out in the world any longer.

I left work a little early and when I got home, I started feeling a bit weird. I dunno, something was just off. I also felt something going on "down there." Could I feel myself dilating?
I got in bed for awhile and once Josias, my two and half year old, got home, I forgot about the feelings as I set about making dinner and whatnot. As we drifted off to sleep that night, some of the feelings were coming back and I started to think that tomorrow would be the day.  I slept well and awoke at 4 am with the same sensations, only this time they were coming and going in a pronounced manner. I knew labor was starting. Josias awoke at 5 am, as he is wont to do. Instead of being annoyed, which I sometimes get with his early risings, we snuggled and I savored the last morning I would have alone in bed with my big boy. We had such a beautiful time together in that hour. I will cherish the memory of that morning for the rest of my life.

Early labor
At 6 am I let Danny know that I was in labor, and we made a plan to keep Josias busy outside of the house. We had previously decided that Josias wouldn't do well with me in labor and that I needed space to do what I needed to do. Danny's brother happened to be around that day and Josias loves hanging out with him: the stars had aligned. A baby would be coming into the world and into our lives.

After Danny and Josias left, I started timing my contractions, which felt quite mild at that point.  They were lasting about 30 seconds and were one to two minutes apart. I made myself a hardy breakfast of toast, OJ and a feta cheese omelet and then I walked the dog. It was mid-November, but the day was sunny and warm. The contractions were increasing in intensity, but still what I would call mild.

Call the Midwife
At 7:30 am I called Mairi, my midwife, to let her know that I was in labor, but that nothing seemed imminent. She was at another birth and her midwife- partner, Erin, was at a conference. She said I should call her when things started picking up.

At that point, I began to fill the birth tub, which was set up in the extra bedroom. I was anxious to see how it would feel. I spent the next hour filling the tub and trying to watch "Saving Grace" on netflix.  As with the birth of Josias, I couldn't really do anything like watch a TV program or read a book while I was having contractions, so I gave up on any kind of diversion and just paced around the house.

I got in the birth tub and it felt like heaven on earth. I couldn't imagine ever getting out. I could still feel the pains of labor, but it all somehow felt dreamy.

By 9:30 am, the contractions were getting stronger, though I could still talk through them. I was also getting hot, so I detubbed to open a window and called Mairi to tell her she needed to start thinking about coming.

Birth
The instant I hung up, my water broke. In the  blink of an eye I had moved through transition into the second stage of  labor (aka pushing the baby out).  I cannonballed (not really!) back into the tub, and frantically dialed Mairi, which took at least five attempts to get right. I told her she needed to come immediately. I also called Danny and told him to come.

I was alone in the house, in the tub and all of the sudden the baby was coming NOW. With Josias this part of labor had lasted for hour upon endless hour, so I never imagined the baby would start coming so quickly.

How did I feel? I wasn't worried. I wasn't scared. I was just there. I was experiencing the labor and knowing that it was all going to unfold as it should. Very zen, very yogic of me, no? Well, yes, in fact it was. 

There are only two times in my life when I have felt like this - like there is nothing else to do, nothing else to think about, and I could just be. I could just be there in the moment, I could experience everything as it was happening, and I didn't have a lick of control over how things would progress, nor how they would end. And, I was okay with that. Those two times were called child birth.

Mairi told me to stay on the phone with her. Fortunately, the other birth she was at was not far from my house. She jumped in her Smart Car and like a bizarro-world police detective in one of those 70's cop shows, she was rushing to the scene of the crime. I can still visualize her barrel-assing through the streets of DC like a bat out of hell. 

On the phone I told her I had to push. I had no choice. Mother Nature was in control. Mairi told me not to push, but to breathe like I was blowing out birthday candles. She told me she was worried about me having a water birth unassisted and that I should get out of the tub. I let her know, in no uncertain terms, there was no way on God's green earth I was getting out the tub. 

The urge to push was so strong, that I didn't think I'd be able to do the, "pretend you're blowing out a birthday candle" bit any longer. Danny arrived and was now on the phone with Mairi. Finally, finally, Mairi arrived and gave me the all clear to push. I started to protest that pain was agonizing, and I recall Mairi saying,"push a few times and you will have instantaneous relief."

Although everything was happening at lightening speed, I could feel all the things the baby was doing. He was in a perfect position. With the first push, I felt him peep out and then retreat back in.  The ring of fire had been ignited and the pain was intense. But as each contraction faded, so did the pain. I would rest for a minute and then with a vice-grip on Danny's hand, I would scream that the contraction was coming. Danny had been rendered mute. He appeared more than a little stunned at the speed with which the festivities were progressing.

With the second contraction, his head came out and I could feel each distinct, perfect body part emerge - the head, and the neck. Another reprieve and then Mairi told me one more push and we'd make short work of it.

The final hurrah. I felt the shoulders, the torso, and then, as Danny said, the rest came out like butter.  As he emerged, Erin had arrived. I caught the baby with my own two hands, and Mairi placed him on my chest. He started to squawk as soon as he came out of the water. From the time the first midwife arrived to the time he rocketed out was approximately four minutes.

I am unable to find words to describe the elation I experienced. I felt the Divine alive within me and around me. It felt electric.

Shiloh
My first words were, "Hi Sweetheart, oh, baby, you came out soooo fast." Then, "He looks just like Josias," and "Oh, you're soooo small." (Point of fact, at nearly ten pounds, he was not SO small.)

I remember each moment as though I am still in the midst of it. After Shiloh was born, we all set about the tasks at hand: get Mama out of the tub, make Mama and Shiloh comfortable, get the afterbirth out, etc. Within the hour, Shiloh began to breastfeed like a champ, Josias came to meet his brother, Danny and Josias cut the cord and they emptied the birth tub.

That, my friends, is the long version of what happened that day. 

The Cliff Notes version is: my home water birth was DIVINE.

Have you experienced the Divine?

Photo credits: author

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