At 8 pm on Friday night, a friend was over for dinner and drinks. I served cheesecake (amazing home made recipe to come, I promise), and we migrated to the couch to watch the computer. One minute I’m loading up VICE’s latest “Buttloads of Pain” and the next, I’m running to the bathroom in an attempt to harness a sudden gush of warm water. Upon sitting on the toilet, I was overcome with a feeling I hadn’t felt in a little less than 9 months: REALITY. It was go- time. Time to birth a child! It was a good thing I doubled that cheesecake recipe, because we were gonna need some kind of birthday cake to celebrate! WOO!!
Pat and I had been planning a home birth from the beginning. Something about the hospital makes me think of injury and illness and strangers and stuff, whereas our house is pretty relaxing and awesome. It was a no-brainer. Upon learning I was pregnant in the first place, I got some advice to score a midwife right away because there aren’t very many of them around my town. The whole deal is entirely covered by our provincial health care system just the same as the doctor and hospital stuff is. A few phone calls and referrals later we got our ladies. Turns out this team is a duo- two for the price of none! How I love Canada. We visited their comfy cottage at first only once a month, then once every few weeks, then every other week, and eventually every week. Towards the end, our appointments were scheduled to take place at our home so they could familiarize themselves with our space for the The Big Show. Over this time, it was wonderful getting to know these two incredible women, and getting to know about my own pregnancy from them. At every appointment we would listen to the baby’s heartbeat, and measure my blood pressure. All was always well.
Plans to start contractions
So, back to Friday night. “Well,guys! It looks like my water just broke.” The mood was festive already, but something about that news had a sobering effect. Pat paged our midwife team, and begged his buddy to stick around with him while he cleaned up (and gathered his wits?). It was Rhonda who was on call – Lillian, her senior probably had this evening off. Since I hadn’t felt any contractions yet, we devised a plan over the phone to drink a special castor oil smoothie if they hadn’t gotten going by about 8am. She came by to drop off a “magic ingredient to add” (verbena oil) and write down the recipe for me. Her next advice: sleep now, for this is likely going to be the last good opportunity. Also, maybe time to tone down the party and rest (shooting a glance at the giggly boys). She left with the instructions to page her if my contractions start and actually get to be about 5 minutes apart.
Settling in for the long run
I was expecting that since this was the first time my body was going to be doing this, that it would take a really long time. I finally ate my cheesecake and tried my best to not let my excitement get in the way of my sleep. A somewhat surprising relief when only half an hour later – a mild contraction! Cool! No bother. Just go to sleep, and see if they get increasingly hard to ignore. Pat was busying himself preparing the house and making plans to go pick up a birth-pool kit from a friend. I searched the bookshelf for a calming-get-my-mind-off-this-exciting-time book, and landed on The God of Small Things. Half a chapter in, and my eyelids were heavy enough to stop caring about the words (this has always been the case with this book). I slept pretty well ignoring every 20 minutes or so when I’d lull back into consciousness and wait for the mild uncomfy feeling to end.
How do I be in labor?
By 11:30pm there was no ignoring it anymore. This feeling demanded my attention more and more with every passing one. Still not close enough to page Rhonda, though. The gap between rushes continued getting less and less. I wasn’t doing a good job of timing them or even consciously acknowledging them as I paced around our house. I read somewhere that it hurts way more if you just sit still, so back and forth I went. Weaving around Patrick and our furniture, into and out of each room in the house, I charged at full tilt at the height of each “wave”. At one point, I was leaning over the bed in our guest room and felt a surge of pure panic rise up. “This is what it’s going to be like….and worse….for a long frickin time.” Thank god I had one last dribble of thinking-ability: BREATHE, ASHTA. Remember the advice about the looooooong slooooow, controooooooled exhales. I took a huge breathe in, and slowly exhaled it all out, finding a count of numbers, and a movement of my hips to accompany the process. My panic instantly melted away, but not the pain! The pain was entirely still there…but not the panic. I could see the pain – bundled up right there in all it’s miserable glory – but my breathe detached me from it, and I was free from the awful uncontrollable wild-horse that is panic. This was my key.
Eventually my spacial awareness diminished and I began walking into things on my tiny mapped-out pacing routes. I leaned over a ball and tried to get a handle on “how far apart they were”. Each wave seemed so random, without any discernible beginning or end. I paged Rhonda at about 12:30 or 1am (at this point, time is blurry), explaining as best I could about what was happening. She said if I could still describe this, I probably had a long way to go yet. Either way, she’ll be over in about half an hour.
Completely taken over
Now that my brain capacity was 100% occupied with coping with rushes, and no longer able to process things like “coffee table on the shin!” and “door frame ahead!” I relegated my body to one place. With my hands down on the bed, and legs straight, I continued a vigorous walk-in-one place. Bending each knee, stretching my hips on each side, and wagging my butt back in forth in the air with my head down. My breathe was FIERCE and controlled. Looooong sloooooow exhales in a count to five, wagging my butt back and forth 5 times. I stayed in this position for the next few hours, and the rushes seemed to not let up at all. Usually in labor, there is a rush, then a rest. Then another rush, then a rest. These “rests” were more like on the “horrible” part of the scale, and the worst parts were on the “fucking excruciating” part of the scale. Whenever I went down to “horrible”, I would think about my cervix. I would will it to open. I would relax it, limp it, savasana. Ooooooopen. Ooooooopen. Like taking a poop, you gotta relax the sphincter. This is what I was doing in between the “fucking excruciating” parts. I wouldn’t have been able to, had I not been breathing out for so long each time. It was this long slow exhale that allowed me the “separation of mind”. Huge breath in, looooooong slooooooow out (count to five on each butt- wag).
When Rhonda arrived, Patrick had already inflated the pool in our kitchen, but was reluctant to begin filling it. After all, it had only been more than a few hours, and this process can normally last for days. He was so good. Preparing the house, and our space. Inflating the pool, wrestling the fitted liner over it. Tending to my needs somewhat, although he was a little distracted in this department, haha. I asked Rhonda to check my dilation (how open the cervix is, the result of each massive “spasm”) and she said she would after the next contraction. Some women get rests in between, and some women (like me) just go down to “horrible”. I flopped on the bed, and she checked me. Hot damn! I was 7 centimeters! Surprised, she went back out into the kitchen and told Pat that he’d better start filling the pool.
At this point, I have no idea how much time passed. All I know is that it seemed like I was having one big long contraction, and was beginning to experience the urge of pushing down. I guess I was, because the second time she came in to check me, she said the two most magical words: “fully dilated”. She said I could now get into the pool. I striped off whatever clothing I was wearing, and stepped into the specially-made-for-this spa which is essentially just a more comfy blow-up pool with high walls.
Sweet glorious hot water. My body finally relaxed after 4 hours of internal agony and concentrated breathing. This is what’s known as the eye-of-the-storm in which your body cuts you the slack needed to muster up the will to push. Though everything was still seized up inside, this was ten minutes of what seemed like bliss. I read that this is because I was receiving a massive natural dose of endorphins. My body had been storing up and waiting for the release of this drug on my braincells for 9 months, and now it was time to unleash it! The perception of relief without any loss of progress. The body is truly amazing.
Involuntarily, like a sneeze fit…BAM! Everything within me seems to wanna get squeezed out of my butt! What a strange feeling! The child’s head moved with the huge pushing sensation downward. Again, and again. I began to hold it in place, and heeding Rhonda’s advice “try to get 3 good pushes on every contraction” I realized I was actually having contractions. Till then, the pushing had seemed so random. Okay. 3 good pushes I can do that. It was helpful to hear Rhonda tell me “yes. push right down into your butt, like you have to poo!” because that’s totally what it felt like – taking a huge poo. I read that it’s all the same muscles, but was not prepared by how common the feeling. Lillian had arrived at some point, and offered to help me into a more reclined position. This was helpful, because I had my knees to haul back on. Once or twice the head came down and part way out, but then back in again. It felt defeating, but it is actually the best thing to happen- as the size gradually stretches out the opening. I realized that if I were going to tear anything, it wouldn’t be the baby’s fault, it would be my own. Taking this responsibility, I really didn’t want to tear myself, so after the next series of three pushes, bearing down to keep the head down there – partially out until the next rush. The rush came, and I pushed and pushed and pushed…and out came the baby under the water! Immediately the little body was put on my chest, and I helped to remove the cord that was comfortably sitting ringed around his neck. Patrick wept behind my right shoulder and we marveled at how his little body quaked and shouted. We lifted the cord out of the way to reveal…a tiny penis!! A BOY!!
I was so surprised by how immediately all of my pain was gone. It was like a locomotive had been shoveling coal within me and gaining speed for 8 hours, only to have all engines go full stop! The train instantly evaporated into a sea of rainbows and butterflies. This moment marked the finality of a 9-month long process that went incredibly flawless. Not a stretch mark, not an added pound, not a tear on my bits during Exodus. We didn’t have to go to the hospital. The boy is in optimal health. I couldn’t have manifested a more ideal-for-me scenario.
I could go on describing what the past 4 days have been like, but I wouldn’t do it justice. Suffice it to say we’ve been floating around in a blissful dream. We named our son Fox.
He’s been an absolute dream for both Patrick and I to learn with.
Something tells me that will never change.