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I began gearing up over the weekend. Contractions came and went but nothing too intense or too regular. Sunday night I went for a walk trying to bring them on a bit. Monday came and went and still the same. I felt really weepy that day, just over being pregnant and upset that I had developed stretch marks just when I thought I had made it through without them. “It’s time for you to come out” I said. Yves came over that night and gave me a massage and we watched a movie with Fanny, Finding Neverland. After watching it, I suddenly felt so grateful to be pregnant, to be carrying a life inside me, to be called to be a mother. I decided to enjoy my last few days of pregnancy for soon I would miss my belly, stretch marks and all.
I began to ponder the journey of labor from the baby’s point of view and wrote a bit about that in my journal. Just as I was finishing up my entry, around midnight, I felt something squirt out of my vagina. “Oh great,” I thought, “I’ve peed on myself.” I shifted and again another squirt. I decided to go check out what had come out. I was wearing brown pants and no underwear so I couldn’t tell the color. I figured smelling it would be conclusive, but it didn’t smell like urine. I surely didn’t want it to be my water breaking, however exciting that might be. It just sort of smelled like vaginal secretions, but more watery. Then I wiped and, lo and behold, bloody show! Now that was exciting! I did a pH test on the wet part of my pants and it came back negative.
My cramping seemed to be stronger suddenly. I was so excited I wanted to call someone and share the news, but decided against it since I knew it was still so early in the process and I didn’t want anyone to lose sleep thinking I’d be calling them again in the middle of the night. I read a story to the baby called “Angel In The Waters” about a baby’s experience in the womb and coming out and then went to bed, knowing I needed to rest myself. My cramps got more intense throughout the night, but were spaced far enough apart that I was able to sleep in between. I used the heating pad and the Biofreeze on my belly and back to make myself more comfortable so that I could sleep during my early labor. I knew I would need the rest later. I didn’t sleep too well of course, so I cancelled my morning plans to go to the beach with Lang. As much as I would have liked to spend some of my labor time near the ocean, I knew that sleep was more important, so I stayed in bed until noon. Then I got up, did yoga, and around 2pm called Yves to tell him that I was in early labor. After work he came by and we went and sat by the water at Morningside and walked a bit.
My contractions were still mild but becoming more regular and slowly increasing in intensity. I was trying not to time them until they really took all of my attention. Around 8 pm or so they were coming every 3-5 minutes, lasting about 50 seconds, and requiring my full attention. I called Devorah about an hour later and told her I’d just like to know how far along I was. The times of things after that was a blur as I began to enter Laborland and knew nothing but what I was experiencing in my body.
I think Devorah arrived about an hour later. I was hoping to be at least 3 cm or so. When she came in I was on my hands and knees, rocking and breathing through the contractions. I got nauseas right after one and vomited up most of what I had drank throughout the evening. Of course Devorah was thrilled. We midwives love when women vomit! She said I was doing really good work and my contractions seemed to be strong and were coming every 2-3 minutes and lasting long. She checked me and found me to be 1 cm, very thinned out with a bulging bag.
I was so disappointed! If this was 1 cm, what would 9 more be like! She reminded me that it’s not all about dilation and I could open up very quickly with the kind of contractions I was having. I knew she was right but still needed to process the disappointment. When she took her hand out she also had a lot of brownish, mucus type stuff on it. I told her I had been seeing that throughout the day and was worried it might be meconium but since I hadn’t had any more leaking fluid I figured my water bag was intact. We looked at it a while and decided it must be old blood, but I kept that fear in the back of my mind. I asked to be alone for a minute. Yves ended up staying, which was actually fine, and I cried out my disappointment.
I told Devorah I guessed I should try to rest as much as possible and asked if she would go home or stay. She said she’d stay for a bit and see what happened with my contractions and then go. My contractions came with a fierce consistency and continued to last long and make me moan and sway. I think I threw up a couple more times. After realizing that rest was futile I opted to get into the tub, even though I knew as a midwife, it was too soon. At that point I was feeling the contractions both in the front and the back, but more intensely in the back. Counter pressure didn’t seem to help much, no matter who was doing it or how it was done.
The water was wonderful and didn’t seem to slow my contractions down at all. I went deeper and deeper into Laborland. I was making lots of noises, mostly saying “oooopen” over and over during the contraction and trying to visualize my cervix opening up. After a little while Devorah thought she should call the other midwives. I thought it was too soon and told her no. I didn’t want to call them too early. More time passed and she asked me again “Are you sure you don’t want me to call them?” I told her if she thought it was time to go ahead. So she did. Mary arrived around midnight I think and Shiela about an hour later. I was out of the tub by then, walking around and doing hands and knees during the contractions.
I don’t know if I asked to be checked again or if they suggested it but Devorah checked me again. She said that I was the same when she went in, but during the contraction she felt me open to about 4-5cm. She thought maybe there was scar tissue from my LEEP and cone biopsy from about 13 years ago. I wanted a second opinion. So Mary checked me and said that when she went in I was about 1 cm and that my cervix had lots of adhesions. She stayed in during a contraction and poked her finger through and opened me up to about 4 cm. I still had a bulging bag. “Do you think I will stay at 4 cm?” I asked. She said yes and that my cervix wanted to be 4 cm but the adhesions were preventing that from happening, that’s why my contractions were so long and close, like transition contractions—because they were trying really hard to break open the adhesions. She said there was a little part in the front that was thick that might just stay that way throughout and they’d have to hold it back over the baby’s head when I pushed.
This began my negative thinking about my progress. I worried my cervix would fail me somehow. But there was nothing to do but go on. According to the chart, this was about 3:30 am. I was tired and decided to try to rest in between again, lying on my side with the heating pad on my back. The contractions continued to blow me away as I lay there in the dark on a chux pad. Shiela and Mary were lying down near the bed and Yves was in the bed pretty much out cold, which pissed me off and at the same time I knew it was good for him to get rest so he could be there later. I would occasionally squeeze him through the contractions, as I moaned “oooppeeen” through them. I think Devorah, my mom and sister were resting in other rooms. I don’t know how long I layed there laboring, sort of feeling alone but also Ok with that.
Suddenly I felt some fluid come out of me and I said “I don’t know if I just peed on myself or my water broke”. Shiela and Mary got out the flash light and sure enough, it was my water. Dammit! I thought, I didn’t want it to break this early because of the GBS. On top of that it was lightly stained with meconium. Another letting go and more surrendering to do. This labor was obviously not going the way I had hoped. I was given food and drink and then decided to get back into the tub. I floated deeper into myself and lost track of all time and space.Contractions came and went, people came and went and I labored on. I started to feel it a lot more in my back, an intense pressure and a burning sensation that would just not go away. My eyes were almost always closed. I started to feel pressure and asked to be checked again around 6 am or so. I was 6 cm, baby was lower and asynclitic. They weren’t sure if baby was posterior or not. It sure felt like it! It was progress but not enough for me in my head, not with the kind of pain I was feeling. I was so tired. I stared to think of one of my client’s birth, how she felt all this pain in her back and had the urge to push at 6 cm, how we had to transfer and her cervix got swollen and she had had a C/S. I feared somehow that would be my fate too. I was sure the midwives were talking about the possibility of transporting. I wasn’t sure I could handle the intensity of the contractions and the urge to push. I thought everyone could read my mind but they all just told me I was doing great.I labored on, beyond any sense of the world outside my own mind and soul. I got into the tub and entered deeper dimensions. In the water I was able to ride the rushes better. They were equally intense but as they came I just told myself “Ok it’s just waves washing over you…follow your breath, you’re doing great…just one more breath, just one more, you’re almost there.” I was able to make it through each one without involuntarily bearing down at the peak when everything in my body told me to bear down with all my might. In between I floated between worlds, wondering to what dimension I needed to go to bring this child out of me. My mind would take little journeys, each forgotten in the next moment. I remembered thinking “It’s true what they say about the water and endorphin levels. I definitely feel drugged.” I don’t know how long I was in there, only that I was able to stay incredibly focused and make little sound other than my breath. I remember my sister being there, her presence was calming and soothing. I couldn’t integrate anyone’s touch. I couldn’t talk or respond to questions. I could only handle what was going on inside. I was vaguely aware of Devorah coming in and out of the bathroom. She didn’t say anything but I knew she wanted me to get out of the tub. I wasn’t going to do anything until she said something to me.Finally, she suggested I get out and walk around a bit. It was the last thing I wanted to do but I knew she had the best intentions. Slowly I emerged from the tub. Moving around was scary because it seemed to always bring on a contraction, which at this point gave me the sensation that a semi-truck was running down though my pelvis! I emerged from the tub and staggered gently into the living room, where my 3 midwives sat and my sister and Yves wandered around me. Yves sensed my need for darkness and began to close all the shades in the house now that it was daytime again. It created a cozy space, which I appreciated without verbalizing. He also put on some reggae music and I began to sort of sway and dance to the music. My legs felt like they weighed a ton each and looked like those of an elephant. Every muscle in my body was sore and dancing and stretching a bit actually felt good. At one point I remember undulating, curling my pelvis forward and letting the wave roll up my torso. It wasn’t that it relieved any of my back pain, but it was something new for my body to do and it felt good to use my muscles in a new way. I visualized rocking the baby off of my pelvis and allowing the kundalini to roll up my spine. And then suddenly here came the semi-truck again and I began to moan and groan against this huge force that seemed to want to split me in half– rocking and swaying, praying for it to end.
As I walked and danced between contractions, eyes closed, I thought to myself “I am so delirious. Is this losing it in labor, have I lost it?” I began to feel the urge so strongly that instinctively I hung onto the bar and squatted during the contractions and began to grunt and bear down. The midwives just encouraged me to listen to my body. I knew they were wondering if my cervix was really open or not but they let me be for a few contractions. I wasn’t sure that it felt better necessarily but it felt like I had to do it.
After a few squats like that Devorah said “Let me see what your cervix is doing.” I plopped down on the floor and Mary supported me from behind. For whatever reason her vaginal exams actually felt good instead of hurting more. Weird. After what seemed like forever she said “You’re 6-7 cm and there is a little swelling, but the baby is really low.” I was so disappointed. It had been 5 hours or so since I was 6 cm. I felt like I had made no progress and was “failing to progress”. This must be one of those labors where drugs are the most compassionate action route, I thought to myself. I was sure the midwives were thinking the same thing and were plotting my transport! I just never got a break from the pain in my back that burned. It felt like someone was holding a hot coal to it. I kept saying “My back burns, it burns, it burns.” And the midwives would just listen without saying much.I didn’t know how I would make it, still being only 6-7cm and having this unbearable urge to push. After I swayed around the living room more, I looked at Shiela and said sort of pleadingly “Can I go back into the tub?” She seemed surprised that I was asking for permission and said “Of course”. So I entered the warm welcoming waters once again, hoping to find the same peace and tranquility I found there before. Yves sat beside me and poured water over me when the rushes came. I don’t know how long I was there, but it didn’t seem like long before I felt totally overwhelmed by the urge to push again. I could no longer fight it; my body seemed to be doing it for me.I felt that I was failing and I turned to Yves and said “I don’t think I can do this anymore. I just can’t fight this urge to push.” He saw my desperation and said “Look at me, look into my eyes. You can do this Corina, you are doing it. You are so strong and I know you can do this.” “No,” I cried, “I feel like a failure. I’m not getting anywhere.” He looked very worried and left the bathroom to report my confession to the midwives. In a moment they all piled into the bathroom and offered words of encouragement: “Corina you are doing so well. You can do this. You are doing it. We know you’re hurting but you can do this.”
Mary offered to check me. I was afraid to know and yet needed to know too. I didn’t think I could possibly be that different from the last time because it seemed that only about 45 minutes had passed since they last checked. I told her I didn’t care she could check me if she wanted. So she did. After what seemed like forever she said “Corina, you’re 9 1/2 cm.” I didn’t believe her. “Mary, for real?” “Of course sweetheart, you know I’d never lie to you about your dilation. Just do 3 more contractions without pushing and then we’ll get you out of the water and have you come onto the birth stool.” I cried with relief at having arrived at this point. But even then I had negative thoughts about possibly still having to transport if the baby got stuck or something.
Soon after that my mom came back and I remember telling her breathlessly “Mom, I’m gonna push soon. I’m gonna push soon.” I staggered out into the living room and suddenly felt very lightheaded so I dropped to my knees and leaned on the futon to catch my breath. I began pushing in this hands and knees position while Mary held my lip back, which was excruciating. I remember asking them to put on Shiela Chandra, I wanted to hear songs about women’s strength. As soon as her sweet, strong, soothing voice came on I knew I had chosen the right music. I began to bear down with my contractions…
Pushing wasn’t all it was cracked up to be either! Although it was a great relief not to have to fight my urge to push, it didn’t really feel much better. Still felt like a truck trying to come down through my sacrum. After a bit the midwives encouraged me to get on the birth stool. That was not comfy at all but I obliged them. Shiela kept giving me Recharge and fanning me, which was wonderful. And lo and behold, I ended up being a great pusher! I was quite grateful for that. I think that is one area where being a midwife actually helped me. I knew at least in theory what muscles to use and how to visualize the baby moving down through the sacrum. That combined with the fact that I had such a strong urge and great abdominal muscles from dancing, ensured that I was able to move my baby each time. Even so I pushed for close to 3 hours!I made lots of noise and screamed at the midwives a couple of times to get their hands out. Once the lip was gone it felt a lot better. Eyes still closed I moved deeper into myself to bring this baby out. I opened my eyes occasionally between pushes and even offered some coherent midwifery advice at times until Devorah said “Hey whose the midwife here?” which even made me smile! After a while I wanted off the birth stool. I gazed longingly at the tub and then looked over at the futon. Had I been guided by my laboring mama instinct I would have probably chosen the water, but once again my midwife mind took over and I opted for side-lying on the futon, motivated partly by my experience of fewer tears in this position.
In between the contractions I would rest and stretch my leg high above my head, which I’m sure everyone thought was very odd. When the great forces would come I would bear down with all my might and I could hear the cheering of everyone around me “That’s really good Corina, you’re moving your baby well, keep going, give another push if you can.” It felt as if bones were crushing and I would completely break apart and I said “I feel like I am breaking apart, I know I won’t but that’s how it feels.” The crowning went on for what felt like 30-45 minutes, but somehow that burning didn’t bother me after all the burning and pain I was feeling in my back.
She felt like she was about 9 lbs! I remember one very sweet moment when a good portion of her head was out and I could feel her little head with my hand. I stroked her wrinkly head, saying “Oh baby, oh sweetness, I love you so much, please come out.” It was absolutely exquisite to feel her sweet little head; she felt like an angel. Since I pushed her out so slowly and let her head just sit there between contractions and stretch me, I birthed her with only a few “skid marks” and no real tears.
When she finally came out she did so head and then body a few seconds later—the best feeling in the world. No I take that back, it was when they placed her wet, squirmy little body on my belly—that was the single most magical moment of my life! “Oh baby, I love you so much.” I said, “welcome to the world, thank you for coming,’ She didn’t cry right away but she looked up at me and I knew she was coming into her body. She was just a bit floppy, tired like mama. After a few moments I felt down between her legs and discovered that she was a girl. “Nehama Renat, it’s you. You’re finally here. “ She began to cry and I was so breathless and emotional I couldn’t sing the song I wanted to sing to her, so I said to my sister “Sing the river song” and as soon as she began I joined her and then my mother and some of the midwives and she stopped crying and I knew she recognized the song and knew she was home. “I love you all so much,” I said, looking around the room, “ and now I know why we always say it’s the woman that does all the hard work.” They all laughed.