Fear and triumph
Fear. This is how I approached every other labor up until now. It’s been a few days since my daughter was born and I can’t believe I’m standing in the same shower I labored in. As the hot water washes away the past few days I reflect on how every room will always hold some amazing aura from the day my baby was born.
Everyone kept telling me how great I was doing but at the time I felt the full wrath of my body being slowly pulled open from the inside like arms and legs pulled apart in a medieval torture device. I didn’t believe them but I clung to their words, knowing the only way out of the pain was through it. What looked like peaceful moaning in labor felt like chaos from the inside.
In all my agony and concentration, I would have done anything that was asked of me. I could not have advocated for myself effectively. How easy it would have been in a hospital for the wrong nurse to convince me into unnecessary medication or intervention. At the peak of my surges I lamented my home birth choice, but the regret was fleeting with every moment, because I knew I was in good hands, and I could do this. With every surge I chanted, “Just one at a time, just one at a time.” I clung to the words my doula whispered in my ear as my husband pressed firmly on my back. “It’s going to reach a peak, and then it’s going to start fading away.” I clung to her words even when the surges piggy backed and the pain barely waned. “Every surge brings you closer to your baby” and all I could think was that there could be a hundred contractions left or a thousand; was I a mile closer or just a millimeter. I clung to her words in the unknown. The only fear here was the fear of time passing. How much longer? I clung to the side of the birthing pool, trying to release every muscle in my body.
-Prelabor: The beginning
I can’t pinpoint when labor started but it felt like I was in labor for days. I was due on Friday, April 22 and by that night I was feeling very discouraged. Since the last pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage, I feared that anything could go wrong to the point that I had trouble bonding with my unborn baby until the 6th or 7th month. That Friday, I mentioned my fear of no baby. “Don’t even say that!” My husband said reacting. I felt that his words meant I could jinx our baby and I began to cry, for hours. I wanted this baby so much, and wasn’t sure if it would ever come to fruition. The next day on Saturday I met with my midwife, it was such a good visit. She happened to be by herself and she calmed my fears. She reassured me that my feelings were normal and ok to feel. She recommended an outing and fun with the family. When she left I felt much better and so we went to Elizabeth park for a walk.
I had some contractions that Saturday night; not too painful and very irregular. I called my midwife hoping this was the real thing, but they were far from lasting a minute and were not five minutes apart, so I was told to call back when they were. I fell asleep shortly after and awoke in the morning feeling great. At this point I was overdue by 2 days and afraid I would never actually go into labor, much less deliver a live baby.
We skipped church that morning and later on I decided we should go bowling to induce labor. The midwife did say get active so it seemed like a good way to start labor, throwing heavy balls at pins. It seemed to work as I had contractions that night, throughout dinner and the evening, even while sleeping. I would wake up almost every hour. They were intense but bearable. The next morning they seemed to come and go. I called Rachael to compare notes as she had delivered 3 babies since I delivered my last one. After talking to Rachael, who happened to go two weeks overdue with her last baby, I was convinced this was going to be 2 weeks of prodromal labor for me too. My contractions would come every ten minutes or so and then they would be farther apart and weaker. Then nothing at all. My mom hung out with me watching TV that Monday and around noon I decide to straighten up the boys’ room. I had been sitting on the floor organizing clothes for a while when I tried to stand up and the most painful contraction yet came on. I breathed through it and decided that my mom and I should go for a walk.
While I got ready it seemed that the contractions would get really painful when I was on my feet. When we finally left the house for our walk the plan was to walk around the block, but I barely made it the end of the street before I suggested we walk home. The contractions were just too painful standing up. So after we walked home, it was about 1:30 and my mom took me to taco bell. I mean, you gotta eat and keep up your energy. My mom drove because I couldn’t drive safely through a contraction should one come. As we were waiting to pay in the drive thru, I sat in the passenger seat breathing through a contraction. My contractions were regularly irregular, so I had hope.
Once we got home and ate, I sat on my birthing ball, all the while keeping track of my contractions with the contraction app on my phone. My mom kept urging me to contact the midwife, but I was waiting until after the appointment she was at and since they weren’t lasting a minute at five minutes apart, it seemed like I’d be jumping the gun anyway. By 3:30, I figured I’d call Rob home from work (I’d told him to go because earlier in the morning I was convinced I’d be pregnant another two weeks.) They were lasting anywhere from 30-50 seconds and increasing in intensity. Soon they were strong and every 3 minutes. So we called the midwife too. My mom had been urging me for about 3 hours. Lol. By the time rob got home around 4, It was pretty evident that this was it. My birth ball was a little deflated and I couldn’t get comfortable so as soon as he got home, he started filling the pool. The next 3 hours were a whirlwind, I suddenly started worrying that the midwives wouldn’t come soon enough. When they left their appointment they still had to gather their supplies so it would be an hour from the time I called them that they would be here. They showed up around 5:30 and I just remember hearing them talking in the background. Their advice was like gold and I did whatever they suggested.
The first time I got out of the tub was to go pee. They never rushed me and let me go at my own pace. I vividly remember their tender care as they helped take off my purple dress and dry me off. It was like the movies I had seen where all the matriarchs come together to care for the new mom. It was lovely in all its intensity. I moved at a snail’s pace between contractions, thriving in the relaxing atmosphere of my home. Linda, the head midwife, asked to check me, “Sure, I just swear I better be more than 2 cm.” she laughed hoping the results wouldn’t deter me. I laid on the couch in the living room. “You are 4 cm,” she said, “and your bag of waters is bulging” she barely finished her statement before my water broke. There was a break in the contractions for a few minutes and it was sweet relief. I knew that things were progressing in a very timely fashion. I made my way back to the tub and the contractions intensified. My best friend turned doula became such a help at this stage, talking me through my contractions with her 10 month old strapped to her back and my husband putting pressure on my back. They were the dream team I didn’t know I would need and rely on so much.
My contractions were getting stronger and closer together. One of the midwives suggested that since I liked the birthing tub, I should try a different position in the shower since my contractions were becoming more painful.
I felt this tension between my body and the birthing process as I moved to the shower. I tried to relax my body to make each contraction count, but a part of me was afraid I would rip open and letting myself squat seemed so impossible. I made it to the toilet after 20 minutes in the shower like they suggested, to open me up. I labored through a few contractions on the toilet and then made my way downstairs where the birthing stool was set up in the living room. The midwives were eating and they laughed because they had gone into the living room to avoid bothering me with their food. I didn’t care. Suddenly I was sitting comfortable, as comfortable as one could be that far along in labor on this amazing birthing stool. The pillows were stacked up in front of me as I faced the couch, relaxing my body into the cushions as I tried to succumb to the contractions. “I’m not gonna die, I can do this.” I kept telling myself, all the while hearing my support team tell me how great I was doing. I wasn’t sure I believed them, but I clung to their words. A few times I almost screamed but I kept it low and all anyone outside of my head heard was moaning, all the while I felt the chaos from within.
In the moments I was in labor, the pain was unbearable. But sitting here staring at my baby girl I am so happy I had my baby at home. I knew what was best before I was in distress and could never have fought the system at the hospital. I would have done what anyone would have told me. When I was in labor I remember taking every suggestion from the midwives because I figured they knew more than I did and I would have done anything to relieve the pain of each surge. When Rachael, my best friend and doula, would talk me through each contraction telling me that it would peak and wane, I clung to that reaffirmation, though I knew it to be true, I had to hear it. The relieving pressure of my husband’s hands on my lower back made the pain easier to bare. No matter where he went, if he had to pee, or grab something for me, when a contraction came he was right there as soon as I called. I could hear hi hopping steps to my rescueJ; Knowing he was there was so comforting. I wasn’t going through this alone, and while on that birthing stool I remember telling myself, “You are not gonna die, this isn’t going to kill you,” I was trying to calm my fear of the pain because it felt like death was the only option…when in fact, Life, the birth of a new baby was the only option to relieve the pain. I began to feel nauseous and I threw up. The head midwife was in the background telling me it’s a good sign and that the baby would be born soon. ‘Does that mean any minute, soon? Or in like ten minutes, soon? How soon does soon mean???’ I thought to myself. Heather, one of the midwives, was on my right and Rachael on my left. Rob was a presence that worked by my side yet in the background. I imagine Linda, the head midwife, as the godfather, nay godmother of the goings on in the room, sitting in the black armchair, overseeing it all with her notebook. I was told to push whenever I felt like it, so I rode each wave praying for that urge to push; to birth my baby. Suddenly I felt a creeping pressure, but it was not the pressure I was expecting. “I think I have to push.” I said “Tell My mom and Bobbie (Rob’s mom) they can come up!!”
When the next contraction came I began to push, the ring of fire was not the burn I was expecting, though I felt I might split open at any moment. “Can’t you pull her out?” I asked, vaguely remembering a doctor’s assistance in every previous birth before.
“No hun, your gonna have to push her out,” Linda said matter-of-factly and so I did and she plopped on the floor through the birthing stool. Sweet relief! In hindsight it seems very hazy in a surreal sort of way. Heather was calling my name to take my baby from beneath the birthing stool, but I felt like I couldn’t move. I did grab my baby from below, her umbilical cord attached to the placenta still inside me. I felt like I didn’t know what to do, ’what do I do?’ I wondered. I could feel everything and I couldn’t comprehend the feeling of the umbilical cord hanging out from within attached to the little person in my arms that I never thought would come. I remember most vividly, the swirl of blonde on the crown of her head, reveling in the relief. The full capacity of my daughter’s birth didn’t really sink in until the next day.
My first shower after having the baby, I stared at the walls inside the bath tub, remembering the time I spent leaning against the tiles, breathing through each contraction. My home holds the memories of the most peaceful birth I’ve ever experienced. Yvette Arya Christine Grove is my fourth baby and a blessed rainbow baby and miracle after the loss of our Hannah last pregnancy.
My mother in law is a nurse and after witnessing this beautiful event she is a convert to the homebirth way of life. She witnessed Yvette born into such peace and love that she says she could never see it done any other way. Our home is truly blessed!!!