Our birth experience was truly beautiful. Adam and I have considered ourselves parents from the moment that we found out about Marshall’s conception. Here is our story. I had been experiencing prodromal labor for weeks. But, on Sunday, May 18th, I felt different. I felt ready. I sensed that the baby within me was ready.
Strong contractions began in the afternoon and I wanted to keep them going. So, I prepared for labor by applying oil of evening primrose to my cervix, having wonderful loving, deeply meditating, performing steady labor inducing acupressure on my hands and feet, rocking on my trusty exercise ball, cooking and eating some lovely high-protein salmon, spinach and quinoa, drinking copious amounts of water with Emergen-C , eating lots of juicy pineapple that My Love prepared, cleaning, dancing, taking Rescue Remedy and trying to rest. Adam and I watched The Kite Runner and had a good cry (Well, I cried. Adam’s eyes looked suspiciously moist. Perhaps it was just our allergies…).
I had no concept of time, during our birth experience. It was only afterward, during discussions, that Adam filled in the times and details. As is true in the other aspects of our life together, he was always there. Holding me, reminding me of lovely places that we have been to together, inspiring me, and keeping me hydrated. He was my birth guardian and his gorgeous eyes my focal point.
At around 10:00 pm, my contractions were very strong and regular, coming in 3-5 minute intervals. Adam packed up the car and we headed out for our 45 minute drive to the birthing center at Dartmouth Hitchcock. When we first got there I was examined by a nurse and then the on-call midwife (not the one I really wanted). My contractions had slowed to between 5-10 intervals, so the midwife told us that we should go home to rest. I was deep into Laborland territory, so I had to rely on Adam to be reasonable. He told the midwife that we would like to stay, due to our 45 minute drive home. So, I was given a warm blanket and told to try to rest, as much as possible. I could not rest. I felt the strongest urge to move, but I tried to conserve energy.
The intensity of the contractions made me feel sick to my stomach, so Adam helped me to the toilet. To our surprise, my water broke! I took a shower and Adam helped by cleaning up and walking back to bed with me. When the nurse came in to check on us, we told her that the bag of waters had burst. She seemed unsure, so she went and looked into the toilet and saw little flakes of the baby’s vernix suspended in the water. That confirmed in their minds that this was real labor!
We were transferred to a birthing suite, right next to one of the deep labor tubs. Adam suggested that we get into the tub. We spent the next two hours in that wonderful water. The lighting was soft, the walls were painted with wispy, Maxfield Parrish-like clouds. We were left alone to labor in privacy with only occasional visits from the nurse to check the baby’s heart rate. We listened to some soothing ambient/trance and Adam held me as we rocked in the tub. When I got too hot to stay in any longer, we got out.
During the two hours in the tub (I thought that we had been in for 20 minutes), my cervix had gone from 3 to 9 cm dilation and was now 100% effaced. I labored on the toilet, the rocking chair, the shower, the exercise ball, walking, swaying, squatting. I hummed and vocalized the whole time, finding that deep thrumming, hmmms, and ohms, were the most productive.
When I was ready to push, I tried the squat bar and then being on all fours. I was not comfortable with either of those options as I felt unstable on the bed. I was beginning to feels worn down. When the midwife left the room, the well-meaning nurse directed me to a supine position, with my feet supported by her and Adam and me pulling back on my knees. Classic movie labor position. I shut down completely, thinking “This is the opposite of what I feel like doing”. I knew that the birth outlet was now 30% smaller than when I was squatting. She asked if I was afraid of something and I began to cry. Adam said, “This is not how we envisioned it. She does not want to push while laying down.”
I had been attracted to the simplicity of the birthing stool and asked if I could use it. That was so much better. I felt secure and grounded. Ready to push, with gravity as my aid.
After pushing quietly for some time, the midwife told me that while this had been a lovely, tranquil experience so far, but that this was a big baby and I was really going to need to dig deep and PUSH with each urge. Adam held me under the arms, whispering in my ear and giving me encouragement.
Our midwife guided my hand to feel our baby’s silky little head, crowning. I found stores of energy and was anxious to hold my child in my arms. The midwife encouraged me to get louder, to grunt and growl. She placed her fingers on my perineum and told me to focus my pushing into her hands. I felt our baby really begin to descend. And with one long grunt and push, I felt the baby leave my body.
I reached for the slippery, blinking baby and pulled the baby up on to my chest. The midwife said, “See what your body can do! You have a perfect vagina.” I love that woman!
I looked down into the very face of pureness. The baby’s silky, dark hair swirled around a somewhat conical (I thanked the babe for adapting so much) head. Little cowlicks swept the hair. Tiny hands wrapped around my fingers as I pulled the baby to my breast, and said to this new, yet familiar face, “Hello, mini Adam.” The hairline and little face was so very much like my dearest husband’s. The nurse asked us if we had looked “to see what it” was. A perfect little penis indicated that we had a little son.
We welcomed Marshall Leif into the “outside” world. When his cord stopped pulsing and all the blood returned to his little body, Adam cut the umbilical cord that connected us. He brought the baby to a warm, lit area of the room to check him all out and recut the umbilical cord, it was very long.
While cuddling our little son, I delivered the placenta, our shared organ. It did not want to leave my body, but after pitocin, and coaxing from the midwife, it was expelled. She spread it out on a little table beside the bed and showed all the parts to us. What a fascinating thing!
Marshall was alert and interested in the world around him, right from the start. Lifting his head off of my chest and turning his tiny head toward Adam’s voice.
I am so thankful that we had the opportunity to birth in such a natural, holistic way. Childbirth is a profound rite of passage, not a medical event (even when medical care is part of the experience). I hope that sharing our story will encourage other women and their loving partners to explore all the possibilities, to take charge of their healthcare, to question the “norms”, and ultimately, to birth in their own way.