Doing a lot of thinking about labor and delivery lately, for obvious reasons. This birth holds some mystery and fear for me that Indra’s birth did not. The biggest factor in this is that I am going to deliver this baby in a hospital where Indra was born at home. Hospitals freak me out big time but for reasons out of my control. It has become the way it has to be this time around. Indra’s birth was lovely, calm and beautiful. I want to re-create that as much as possible in a hospital setting but there are some reservations that I feel inside that are becoming a bit concerning.
I am afraid.
Fear played no role in Indra’s birth. I felt strong, ready and able to take on anything. I’m not feeling that so much anymore. I am nervous and worried and doubtful of my abilities. I have even considered just getting the damn epidural and rolling over to the politics of hospital births. Me! I told Justin about this feeling and he was pretty shocked and said that this is so very unlike me and worried about where this idea was coming from. To be honest, I don’t know. This pregnancy has been difficult in so many ways and maybe I am just tired. Maybe I am fearful of the hospital environment more than I think. Until now, I have not considered the experience of bringing Indra into the world as “painful.” I remember it being very intense. Opening up my body, opening up my mind and soul, breaking open, splitting open, ripping open but trusting that this opening was okay and welcoming each contraction because it brought me closer to meeting my baby. I moaned out low “ooooooooooohhhhssss” and rocked my body back and forth. I closed my eyes and absolutely surrendered to the process.
I’m not sure I can let go like this in a hospital. I’m not sure I feel the strength and resolve I felt two years ago. I have struggled with chronic pain throughout this pregnancy and to be completely honest, I have kind of had it with feeling pain and being uncomfortable. So, I have been reading birth stories and trying to gain some confidence in myself. I do not want to separate myself from my baby and the birth experience by medical interventions. That is my conscious thought. My body feels differently, my body feels ready to give up–almost. Not sure how to better say it than that. It is important to me that I at least try, but I know that the sneaking doubts women have regarding their own strengths come crumbling down under the pressure of nurses and doctors offering a full array of medical interventions.
I will have my doula, Anne, with me and Justin who were both present for Indra’s birth. Anne was my rock during Indra’s delivery. She harmonized with me on all of my vocalizations, crawled with me on the floor, quietly held herself in my sacred birth space, she fed me spoonfuls of sweet honey between pushes, held my sweaty, quaking body with so much compassion and love. Having Anne as my ally in this birth is crucial to me. I am valuing her more as a warrior on my behalf for the hospital whereas for my home birth we were two women connecting and supporting each other to bring a baby calmly and safely into this world. Now, Anne’s role will be two-fold; she will not only be there for that connecting point but also to be a barrier between myself and hospital interference. We (Anne and I) have spoken at length about the differences between hospitals and home and she is very comfortable working with my doctor and the hospital environment. If anyone could do it, it is her. For now, I am going to continue to read inspiring birth stories and try to let go of my personal doubts and fears.
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The contractions began on Monday in the late afternoon. I had gone to work that day and everything seemed fairly normal from what I had been experiencing in the way of practice contractions. I came home from work and ate dinner and the tightening became a bit more pronounced. The contractions felt a bit lengthier and came from the back rather than just a tightening of the abdomen. I went to pre-natal yoga at seven and the contractions continued throughout the two hours I was there. During the quiet relaxation time at the end of yoga, I relaxed fully with the contractions and turned all of my attention inward toward my babe. In the strong and comforting circle of pregnant mamas, I felt my little one inside me move and wriggle. I felt certain I would be meeting this little one very soon. I asked for my send off at yoga even though my due date wasn’t until the following week. For those of you who have not attended pre-natal yoga, a send-off is where the mama who is about to give birth sits in the center of the circle and the women lay their hands upon your belly and body. They sing you a song of blessing and strength to guide you on your way through labor, delivery, post-partum and motherhood. The invocation of power and compassion is so strong it is nearly overwhelming. I closed my eyes and allowed the movement of the song and the strong hands of mothers and soon-to-be mothers fully envelop me and the babe. I felt ready.
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We walked to the hospital room and the place started swarming with people. I held on to Anne as another contraction completely took me over. I held her in a great big hug and swayed back and forth on my tip toes as the contraction gripped my whole body. I screamed, “The baby! It is coming now!” The doctor introduced herself to me and said she would be delivering my baby. No time for Dr. Reichoff to get there and Justin was still not there either. They asked me to lie down and I shook my head in refusal. No way was I going to be lying down. The nurses lowered the bottom half of the bed and asked me to kneel. I shucked off my skirt and knelt down on the bed. The nurse to my left said something about needing to check me and she was ardently trying to get the contraction monitor around me. Anne, in her graceful way, inquired why she would need to do these things since the baby was already crowning. They fitted me with an oxygen mask and told me to go ahead and push. I begged Anne to call Justin. Mind you, we had only been in the hospital for probably ten minutes before I found myself kneeling on the bed ready to deliver the baby. I was scared to deliver the baby without Justin being there but with the force of the next contraction my whole body bore down for a push. I felt the head coming. I pushed more. I felt the shoulders coming. I pushed more and before I knew it, the doctor was placing my newborn babe on the bed in front of me. The baby was born with just one push, ten minutes after arriving at the hospital, twenty minutes after my water broke. Justin entered the room just as the baby was being handed to me. I couldn’t believe he had missed the birth.
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For the next two to three hours, I fell into a state of shock. My body shook, my mind went blank, my emotions flat. I could not hold my baby. I could not communicate to anyone. I asked Anne what was happening to me. She assured me that going into shock from such a fast delivery is completely normal and even the feelings of not wanting to bond with the baby are normal. She said that what I had just experienced fell well within the realm of trauma and my mind and body were working hard to catch up with what just occurred. Justin held Sparreaux and was in a whole other state of shock. He had missed the birth, his partner was losing her mind to shock and not bonding with the baby. He knew how much I looked forward to those first hours after birth where you just snuggle and nurse and fall in love and he was at a loss to understand how I could not be in a place to do that. He had never, ever seen me like that and honestly; I have never experienced shock before. The nurses offered me morphine to calm down which I declined. I was worried it would take me even further away from my goal of grounding myself. After about four hours I was able to eat and relax a bit and take my baby back in my arms.
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