Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Birth stories and Magic

Stories. Stories are filled with power; stories take on a life of their own. I want to tell this story, share my story, one that is intimate and intense and truthful.

My second child’s birth was an intensely transformative experience, the story I tell myself is a story of primal forces meeting and changing me in such intense and intimate ways that I am left amazed and astounded by the experience.

6:30 in the morning, I was lying in bed half awake, listening to my husband Jerome getting ready to go to work. Feeling blue and disappointed, not wanting him to leave for work, yet knowing he needed return to his responsibilities, as my contractions had not truly intensified over the last two days, despite my best efforts to encourage the baby to come, These efforts had included a visit to my chiropractor, pacing the waiting room having intense contractions, feeling altered and intensely internal while interacting with others. Others who couldn’t sense the great impending dance I was beginning. I had also enlisted my poor husband in awkward hugely pregnant sex, sweating away in the heat of the day, wanting his prostaglandins and little else. We had also tried going on a long vigorous walk at sunset pulling our two year old behind us in her little red wagon… to no avail. The walk had been intense out under the moonlight welcoming each contraction and hoping to begin the great dance… however, the time was not yet right and a full night sleep had passed without being awakened by my body’s urgent call.
And so I lay there mostly asleep and relaxed my daughter asleep beside me in the bed, I felt something… pop! inside me. Startled I opened my eyes and waited, the alert mama in me waiting for a child’s cry in the night… nothing happened, and I relaxed my body back down into the bed breathing deeply, and then the first wave began rolling against my body A contraction gripped me that was as intense as anything I had felt while out walking in the night before. I lay there breathing through the sensation, feeling it deep in my bones. Dampness began to spread on the lips of my vagina and I reached down and discovered the moisture. A surge of excitement as I lay there wondering to myself… Did my water just break? No great gush arrived to give me a certain answer. But as another contraction began, I pulled back the covers and walked to the door of the closet.
Jerome was within, picking out a tie to go with his light blue dress shirt. The contraction grew in intensity and I felt small trickles running down my legs. Jerome’s eyes widened and he looked at me and at the drops falling to the floor. Laughing and shaking my head at the irony of the moment, I told him what I was experiencing… It seemed so ridiculous that he was about to walk out the door, when this change had finally occurred. Still there was no great gush of liquid and so we stood there at the brink, wondering what action to take. He teetered, wanting to stay home, but knowing he needed to go if I wasn’t truly in labor. He called our midwife Paula, and discussed the situation with her. I found myself pacing in our darkened bedroom, listening to an Enya CD and doing a sort of chicken dance when contractions came. As the pressure would mount, I found myself lifting up and stepping from foot to foot shifting in place, seeking a position of comfort. The contractions came with ever more force and I continued to drip lightly while bearing up under the forces fairly calmly. I listened as Jerome made phone calls, making plans for my mom to come over and be with my 2-year-old daughter Mielle. I didn’t want to be responsible for her if Jerome was leaving. Mom would arrive around 8:00 and if things hadn’t really changed, then Jerome would head in to work. I spoke with Paula for a while glazing over a bit during contractions, but mostly staying quite calm and lucid. She offered for me to come to the Birth Center for company and monitoring if I wished. I assured her my mom was on the way, and I was most comfortable at home.
Before long I found myself moaning to myself alone in the bedroom and became concerned that I would awaken Mielle, who was still sleeping peacefully in our bed. I decided to head to the bathroom for more privacy… and that was when everything changed. Soon I was moaning and clutching at the sink during the waves of intense sensation. Frequent loose bowel movements gave me no relief, but instead seemed to trigger new more intense contractions. I had no sense of time passing, only of swiftly gaining pain and a loss of control. I began to vomit into the toilet, bracing my hands on the seat and planting my feet firmly on the ground. I bent over with my head a few feet away from the toilet and vomited straight down with great force. Vomiting was strangely invigorating, it hurt but felt productive.
I recall looking out the bathroom window at the early morning scene. The field beyond the house was shrouded in mist, all grey and mysterious, but the sky was beginning to lighten from purple to blue. A fresh wave of nausea struck me and I shook my head back and forth in mute misery. My mouth was all soft and slack, my lips loosely flapping back and forth as I expressed myself with animal fury. I spun in place to face the toilet and vomited again with intense satisfaction. Rinsing my mouth and hands at the sink was glorious, letting the cold water run against my wrists. I would lean against the cold marble letting myself sink as deep and as still as possible between the increasing waves of feeling.
During contractions I became very vocal whimpering and moaning, seeking any position of comfort. My darling husband came and went, making phone calls, checking on me, observing me and thinking of things which I had no thoughts left for, such as lighting the special candles I had prepared to light the way. He brought me water encouraging me to drink and gently touching my back. His comings and going felt surreal and I would tell him of my pain and of my wish for it to stop. I told him that I hated it, and that I felt like it was tearing me in two…. I whined and moaned and felt miserable. He remained so calm and loving, not reacting with fear or expressing any of his needs. He was always reassuring and calm, telling me that I was getting rests, that everything was in motion.
As the nausea passed and the pain increased I found myself writhing about, seeking any position of relief, remembering my first birth I settled down onto hands and knees on the floor of the bathroom. However I found myself distracted by the grit and dirt beneath my hands on the rug. As I knelt there on the floor Jerome came to me carrying beaded necklaces in his hands. One by one he lifted them over my head anointing me with the power of the blessing beads given to me by the circle of women in my life. Each one slipped gently over my head and I clutched at him as he sat cross-legged before me, reminding me of the love and support of the women who had shared the beads with me.
I recall getting up from the floor quite suddenly, surprised at my own agility while lunging for the toilet to vomit once again. Blood began to appear on the toilet paper I was wiping myself with and I remember telling Jerome that things were going so fast that I wanted him to call Paula…
He was away from me, downstairs, when I heard Mielle crying in our bedroom. I whistled long and shrill repeatedly until I heard him hurrying up the stairs towards me. Wordlessly I gestured towards the bedroom and wordlessly he went to her. Part of me listened as they talked together in the bedroom. Soon, ever so soon I heard them approaching just as a contraction crested in my body. I moaned and clutched at the cool marble sink. I was aware of them standing together in the doorway watching me. Jerome was explaining that Mama wasn’t angry that Mama was doing “baby work” right now. Mielle must have been distressed despite my best efforts to contain myself and not frighten her. Jerome took her into her bedroom and soon I could hear her giggling and saying that Mama was making funny noises… They returned to the bathroom watching as I sat on the toilet, wiping, always wiping clearing ever more mucous and blood away from my body.
Things became quite hazy for me after Mielle awoke. The contractions continued to increase in intensity and I know I whimpered to Jerome about the pain, and about feeling like I was tearing in two… he came and went with Mielle in his arms and my low moans grew louder and louder. Reality lost its clarity and all became a blur of feeling and action, noises in my throat changing to grunts great shaking grunts of primal energy. I could feel blood trickling from my body and down my legs in warm wet trickles. Muscles quivering I wandered in my thoughts, eyes closed. My physical senses heightened, my hearing sharpened and fixated on the deep grunting sounds that filled the room. It was as though I was listening to someone else from a distance. Then a stray thought, a coherent thought, drifted past… Wow, listen to that woman… she’s doing it, she’s really pushing a baby out…and that’s when I realized that I was the woman and that I was indeed PUSHING a baby out! That’s right, pushing…. And I wanted into the birthing pool… no I NEEDED into the birthing pool! So when Jerome next checked on me I told him to take the cover off the pool. He hesitated, knowing that getting into the water too soon could stall labor, knowing that Paula was on her way and wondering if it was a good idea or not. Seeing his indecision prompted me to snap at him that I wanted to get in the fucking pool NOW! Boy, did he hop to it! He turned and went right in and cleared everything off the pool. I followed him into the bedroom and as he lifted the plywood cover of the pool I reached in pulling off the floating foam cover, flinging it to the floor, completely uncaring of it’s wetness on our floor.
Steam rose up off the heated birthing pool, which had stood waiting in the corner of my bedroom for the past 2 weeks. I practically leaped into the tub as I could sense another super intense contraction coming. The warm water did not sooth me as much as embrace me, defining my personal space and I moved about, spinning and turning, seeking to know my space and find comfort within it. Comfort however was long past and I moaned to Jerome about the feeling in my butt. I was convinced “it was coming out of my butt” there was such intense pressure in my body I felt like I would explode. Jerome calmly assured me it was not coming out of my butt and I remember thinking “What does he know, it’s my butt!” He joined me at the edge of the tub near the window, sunlight behind him, blue sky behind his loving face, leaves dancing in a breeze. Mielle was at his side watching with interest. She showed no desire to join Mama in the tub, realizing I wouldn’t be playing with her if she tried to join me. Her small tender face entered my line of vision and between contractions I gazed at her, seeing her serious blue eyes, her small fingers gripping the edge of the pool. During this moment of lucidity I asked her for a kiss and her firm but gentle kiss was so very precious to me at that moment. I took such comfort and sustenance from her calm and interested face and a sense of empowerment filled me.
Within the birthing pool my personal space was defined, contained and claimed. Within this space I began actively exploring the lips of my vagina. Being in the water allowed me to settle into a deep squat, opening deeply and touching myself. Moving, nearly constantly moving, I cleared mucous and blood from my vagina feeling it dissolve into the warm water. As I cleared mucous away I inserted my fingers, probing, exploring and discovering. Soon, very soon I could feel a great bulge of flesh and liquid straining forward. When I pressed against the squishy bulge I could feel the hardness within of a skull. I could reach in and touch my child’s head within my pelvis and feel it surging forward with each contraction. Excited, empowered and emboldened I directed Jerome to feel this amazing thing for himself. I brought his hand down into the waters and at first he was slightly skeptical of my assertion. I suspect he still didn’t believe how close we were to meeting our child. But with the next contraction he felt the bulge of head for himself. His eyes widened and he asked if he should call Paula. I turned and looked at him so fiercely that he was startled. “I want you 100% here!” I told him and proceeded to pin him in place with the sheer power of my gaze. I felt as though I trapped him in place locking my gaze with his. He apologized to me, thinking I was angry with him, still gazing into his eyes I told him that it wasn’t anger I was feeling. Not at all. Still gazing into each other’s eyes he relaxed into what was passing between us and said quietly “Oh. That’s what that look means.” And during that time I felt as if I was anchoring myself to him, I was drawing on his power, tapping into the deep energy that exists between us. I needed to draw on that power, on our deep connection, to anchor me while I finished bringing our child forth.
My body began to tremble as another contraction began. I could feel great powerful pushing from my feet and up my legs, intensely in my anus and grippingly in my vagina. I clung to the edge of the pool and pushed with all my body. It was with intense relief that I felt the sack of waters break, liquid rushing out around the baby’s head providing a relaxation of tissues, which were stretched unbelievably. My hands constantly exploring, I felt as the head reached the outside, stretching me even wider than before. I stroked at the flesh that held the baby within me, seeking to gently stretch it further. So amazing and intense, to be stroking at the rim of flesh surrounding my child’s head. With the next wave of power I felt as the head moved forward sticking out of me a few inches, not quite fully down to the chin. With amazement and wonder I insisted that Jerome feel this unbelievable thing… his eyes were full of wonder, joy and excitement.
I recall feeling the head leave me entirely, knowing the body was still encased with in me. There was a pause, while I squirmed around a bit, the sensation so exquisitely amazing and unbearable. I felt the baby moving, it’s shoulders wiggling around inside the sheath of flesh I held it in. I continued to talk through this, telling Jerome what was happening down below in the water. Panting, I could sense the next great rushing of my body coming, my body trembling so intensely and uncontrollably quivering. With one last great heave, the body slipped forth into the water… out of my body and into the water with a somersaulting motion, limbs splayed out as if in surprise… and there was a child. A complete and separate person from me, no longer within me… exposed. A person, a unique and perfect little body, with arms and legs just right there, right before me in the water.
I gasped with surprise and pleasure and with relief. And I reached down, my hands closed on torso and head, which was simultaneously slippery and firm. I wrapped my loving hands around the child and lifted up, bringing this new being out of the water and into my arms.
Covered in thick white vernix, skin purple beneath, the eyes opened, and I remember seeing vernix on eyelashes and on lips. Tiny little fists held tightly nearby a chin that was tucked tight and close to a wrinkled neck. Blinking eyes dark and unknown to me looking up. I remember moving close to the edge of the pool so Mielle and Papa could see the baby. We were all grinning foolishly at one another, completely high on the moment, at a loss of what to do next. Feeling no need to do anything beyond repeat again that “the baby is here!” and grin at each other.

My father, Papa Greg had been cleaning up in the bathroom, folding towels and straightening up after me, but when he heard those magical words he came down the hall dumbfounded to share in our joy. It had only been about 10 or 15 minutes since I had left the bathroom! He asked if it was a boy or a girl and I told him we didn’t know yet. I resisted the urge to look, as I did not want to do so on someone else’s suggestion! I felt that discovery was mine to make when I was ready, and not before. Jerome called Paula and told her we had a baby. She was shocked and told him she was pulling onto our road, and would be right there. It was then that I chose to look and announced, “It’s a boy!” It was so fun to tell Mielle that she had a brother.
Within minutes Paula and Krista entered the room carrying bags with equipment, rushing to help us during these first precious moments. My son was soon wearing a tiny little hat and draped with towels while still held against my body. Paula asked to give him some free flowing oxygen and I agreed, as he was still pretty purple. She soon had Jerome cupping his hand before the baby’s face with the oxygen blowing gently from a soft tube. Paula suggested I rub the bottom of his feet and it did seem to perk him right up.
The umbilical cord was still pulsing and he seemed to be doing fine, so we waited a bit basking in the loving energy of a baby’s birth. After the cord stopped pulsing we clamped it off and Jerome cut the cord. They then took some cord blood, milking the cord to fill a vial. We did this to find out blood type as Jerome and I have differing rh factors. After a bit they suggested I could leave the pool. I handed my son off to his father while I prepared to leave the pool.
I slowly emerged from the pool feeling transformed, I stroked at the vernix which was coating my tummy and my breasts, rubbing my hands against flesh which was suddenly soft and empty, marveling at the change before me. A Henna design was on my stomach and I stroked at the great soft flower of flesh, which was before me. Slowly I stopped from the pool, a bathrobe around me, a chaux pad being used like a great bulky diaper… I began to shiver and my teeth chattered violently together, I felt intensely changed, more than I could absorb.
Gentle hands led me to my waiting bed, gentle hands tucked blankets around me, restoring my calm. Gentle hands placed a bowl beneath my bottom to hold the coming placenta. Baby was placed back in my arms, back at my breast, skin to skin we waited together for the placenta, while allowing Jerome and I time to stroke him and welcome him into our hearts. The bedroom glowed with energy, with joyful acceptance. Mielle snuggled up with us and showed such delight in even the tiniest movements of her new baby brother.

After some time had passed I suggested I would like to try squatting and moved to the side of my bed leaning against it, with the bowl below me. Again I found myself marveling at the change in my body, at the muscles in my deflated tummy. As a few contractions came I was able to bear down a little bit and felt the placenta pass out of me, much like a strong bowel movement but really, no worse than that. A bit of blood accompanied it and Paula massaged my uterus making me gasp and moan with the pain. She was pleased at my body’s response and the lack of bleeding. I enjoyed a brief shower and resettled in bed with baby at breast. He was a vigorous nursling from the first, which unfortunately triggered intense cramping and nausea. I threw up repeatedly the first day while trying to nurse my son, but even with that challenge before us, time passed as quickly as a sigh.
Both my mother and Jerome’s mother arrived expecting to assist with labor and found a lovely new grandson to kiss instead. My friend and chiropractor had agreed to come adjust me in my home during labor and instead took care of both my son and I during the first few hours of his life. Everyone was so surprised that my son was born in less than 2 hours, yes only 2 hours from that first silly moment laying in bed, to bringing him up out of the water and into our lives.
As I struggled to adjust during that first few weeks I found myself feeling somehow, that I had endured something traumatic in giving birth so very quickly. We discovered during the first week that I had bruised internally during the birth and that caused intense cramping pain for nearly a week afterward while my body healed itself. It was during this time that I decided to write my birth story and to be mindful of what kind of story it was. Stories are very powerful, they can become more true than the actual events…I could tell myself that it had been so scary and that my midwife wasn’t even there in time, and that it hurt like hell… or I could tell myself that I didn’t need a midwife to be present for such a natural and healthy birth. I could tell myself that my body was very capable of doing everything it needed to do. I can tell myself that while I was intensely affected by giving birth, that it showed me how strong and capable I truly am.



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