“Some may have forgotten who we are, but I haven’t nor will I let my daughter should she choose to be a mother one day. Should she choose to stroke and comfort the spirit of another I’ll tell her that she’s everything, everyone to that child. She’s not her hair, her stomach, her car, her clothes, her job, or her zip code. She’s not even her stroller.
I’m going to tell her that the man or woman she is pulling out of a clumsy, giggling, stinky, sweet, petulant, thankless little body may never understand the nights she spent wondering, hoping, crying and staring into their face wishing for them the whole world and none of it at all, but she’ll remember and regret none of it. For sure I’ll tell her that she’ll be amazed at her own intuition and the mama bear that lurks beneath her demure smiles.
She’ll know that what she is doesn’t make sense. It isn’t right, wrong, fair or special; those are words that humans use. We’re mothers.
There will be bad days and good days, but they’ll all be the most important day in that child’s life and in hers. I’ll tell her that the calling she’s stepped into will lead her to secrets that wise men spend their whole lives meditating and pouring over ancient texts to uncover; that she’s fallen into a valley of love so intense it will warm and burn her at the same time.”
Evelyn Comes HomeI am a believe in what our bodies can do when we feed and treat them right. I think they were specifically designed to work miracles within themselves. I never had to tell my body to grow my baby’s heart, develop her lungs or build her muscles; the intelligent system that my body is did that for her. Birth is the easy part in comparison.
I had worked really hard that night; harder than I had ever worked– and in a different way. Deciding to give birth at home was fairly easy once I watched “The Business of Being Born.” I’ve lost count how many times I’ve watched the documentary. Many of those before I was even pregnant. Once I was pregnant, it was something I’d cue up while I cut vegetables for dinner, swept the floor, or had any business around the T.V. I was an “off-season quarter back” as Andrew called it. I wanted to see women give birth. Then I wanted to see it again. And again. I’d cry every time the baby came. One particular birth always got me: the woman would scream (curled my toes the first time) as her baby was coming out. She was squatting and could see her baby as he emerged. What I first thought was a cry of pain was actually a cry of joy. She screeches “my baby!” and holds him right away. I wanted that. After seeing how pure the whole process could be, how refining, joyful, and transformative, I put my focus on creating this birth for Evelyn, Andrew and myself.
The amount of hours I was in labor is debatable to me. Andrew (my husband) believes it was 33 . For me, it began when I felt like the pain couldn’t get much worse– and then it did– for 9 more hours.
Aleks is my midwife. She is not the only midwife who could have come to my birth (the Sanctuary Birthing Center has a slogan “midwives with lives” and their midwives work on a rotating schedule for being on call). She ended up being able to come, though I believe at the cost of a night’s sleep and right to work again the next day. There are those you meet in life who make things stop; their presence brings a sort of inner stillness. That’s her. One of those wise women with intuition dripping from the ends of her hair. You can feel that she knows what to do, you can feel that she has found her calling. I am blessed to know her and have had the comfort of having such a woman at my birth.
Aleks came around 7 pm on Monday night to a me that was already having trouble coping with the radiating pain that wrapped around my middle. My belly, back and hips felt like they were seizing. Looking back all I can say is that I was just so surprised with how intense the feeling was. I was surprised over and over as each rush came. I breathed audibly to get through contractions. I felt chilled and then boiling so I found a compromise standing in the hot bath tub (and I mean hot– I think the skin was peeling off of my feet) and hanging my head out of the December window, listening to the blare of Hollywood, California. It was soothing, actually.
All I wanted was Andrew. All Andrew wanted was for my water to break.
There were a few things that we tried to help me be more comfortable through the contractions. Leaning over a ball, sitting on the toilet, standing while leaning on someone. It all helped some but what I needed most was to sleep. Aleks had me lay between she and Andrew on the bed and while this was more difficult to work through the contraction, it did allow me to fall asleep right away. It is really strange to be so focused in on life, working through an intense wave and then have yourself pass out as soon as the feeling ends– poof. I was impatient with being woken again, it spoiled my sleep. When I say spoiled it, I mean it made me mad enough to spit fire. I finally threw myself off of the bed and stomped to a bleary-eyed standing position. I stood there swaying my hips back and forth as this seemed to bring some ease into things.
Aleks checked me (my cervix) and while I don’t remember the number she said, I remember her telling me that I needed to get in the shower. She said that it would help me adjust to the new intensity that was coming. “New intensity.” Rang of a euphemism to me.
I was right.
Andrew came in the shower with me. I thought, “ok, yes, should have done this a while ago. This is better, this is… holy moly… I think I’m going to lose it. I am hurting worse. It feels like…” and then I really lost it. I sobbed into Andrew’s shoulder. Tears are good though. There is a quote I love from Charles Dickens’ book, Great Expectations: “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of the earth, overlying our hard hearts.”
Tears soften us and tears are what I needed then. I hadn’t slept the night before (that is where Andrew gets some of the hours adding up to the 33 he counts for labor) and I certainly wasn’t getting any sleep this night. I felt fragile. When I climbed out of the shower I wanted them to fill the birth tub.
I must own a birth tub one day. The inflatable kind they brought. The bottom was thick with air. The sides were blown up too, tall, and yet somehow sturdy. It was the greatest. I don’t know how long I was in there before she came. Two hours? Two and a half? I have no idea. I fell asleep bent over in there and didn’t mind as much when the contractions would wake me up.
My mental state at this point had stripped me of inhibition. I’m starting to roar. I never thought I would make any noise, much less the deep, loud sounds I was now freely making. Andrew said he was fine until I sucked in wind after one contraction and it sounded like a surprised “ohhhhh!”. He said he actually jumped. I wish I would have seen it. My water broke somewhere in all of this. Andrew had a small personal party when I told him. He knew we were getting close then.
Soon after I felt like pushing. I told Aleks that I did. She leaned over the tub and said, “no, you will know when you need to push. It feels like the urge to vomit. It is powerful, you won’t be able to stop it.” Uh, vomiting? I filed it away and kept grunting. I did want to push but it was hurting when I’d let myself try a little.
A little more time and a lot more work and I felt the feeling Aleks described. All of the sudden my body doubled on itself, I sat up and crunched myself over in the surge of pushing. How accurate. That was just like vomiting. A powerful, must-be-obeyed urge that consumed me. That was the most exhilarating feeling. I loved it.
Wait. Some people pushed for hours didn’t they? Oh no. Not happening. “Aleks? How many pushes? How many pushes before she is here?” As if she could know. I needed her to know. She told me five. Five pushes. Fine. I now grew impatient between contractions. I wanted the “push-vomit” feeling to come back. After three pushes I felt desperate. When I say 3 pushes, what I count as one push is really a set of them. When the feeling takes over to push, it is like a small round of pushes. Takes considerable energy. Again, very similar to heaving over a toilet. There isn’t just one heave and then a nice ol’ break. You get the urge and you keep gagging until the feeling passes. Yep, pretty romantic sounding, this whole birth thing.
Will you believe me if I follow that up with that it was? I mean, I felt strong now. I knew I could do this. Pushing was hard but exciting– the process leading up to it now had immense purpose to it, in my eyes. But that doesn’t mean I was wholly patient. Every push that she didn’t just materialize made me more anxious to have her. I was worried about stretching so I wouldn’t tear… and I could feel this feeling of my “entrails becoming my extrails” (see A Knight’s Tale for the full effect of that reference). There was pressure, pressure, pressure.
After push five, and the baby still hadn’t arrived, I said a prayer of desperation. It went something like “Please help me. This is the last time I’m going to push. Make her come.” And come she did! Her head came and then her body quickly after that. Andrew lifted her up and put her on my chest. My first thought was “Wow. Just like that the pain stops.” Then I was lost on Evelyn. She was perfect.
She started breathing and screaming simultaneously. She sounded ticked. I was so happy. I had been through more than I imagined (remember all of the birth videos I saw? And I haven’t even mentioned the hours on You Tube.) and I was reveling in my body’s ability to have done it. Never in my life have I stared so directly into my own eyes. I discovered myself by degrees and ended with a profound connection: me to me. Giving birth was spiritual. My sore muscles became a sweet reminder of what I could do– what I did do. They are a reminder of what I did for Evelyn and for myself.
I can’t wait to do it again.
*Here is a link to the birthing center I used for more information: http://www.birthsanctuary.com
*You can watch “The Business of Being Born” instantly on Netflix.