Positive birth stories can be hard to come by but are essential in preparing for an empowering birthing experience. We must end the cycle of perpetuating the myth that birth is a horrible experience that we need to endure and survive. With the right preparation, support, and mindset, every woman can have a positive experience that she can hold sacred, as my dear client, Lucia, shares below.
Giving birth felt like traveling to the door of eternity or another world to me to receive the greatest gift that could be given to a human on earth. That sense grew more powerful as my labor progressed and faded with each hour and day after birth. It could be the oxytocin-addled brain of the birthing mother, but I am changed by the journey. I wrote this so I would never forget that feeling and the strength in me, my child and my husband.
Some facts to frame the more abstract description that follows:
Margaret Nancy’s “due” date was January 7, 2019. I felt the first surges of labor on Sunday night January 6th. I didn’t sleep much that night curious and excited and practicing breathing through the waves that came infrequently. I wondered when it would be time to go to the hospital. I had my 40 week appointment the next morning. At that appointment the doctor gave me a vaginal exam and said I was 1 cm dilated and 40% effaced (a long way to go), but the surges were coming every 20-30 minutes. Morgan, my sweet sister-in-law, drove me to that appointment because Michael was taking his driving test. He got his license that morning! Morgan and I walked and talked for a few hours. The surges were greatly varied in intensity, duration and frequency, but they did start to get closer and closer.
In the afternoon they were close enough to call Ellie. She came over to our house and helped me labor for a couple of hours. But the surges began to slow and she recommended rest and to call her again if they began to re-organize. By 11 p.m. they had. By 11:55 p.m. we were at the hospital and admitted at 6 cm dilated, 90% effaced, -3 station. Ellie joined us. We settled in our labor room.
By this time, the surges were every couple of minutes and intense enough to require my whole consciousness to breathe through. I was shivering with oxytocin.
I closed my eyes.
She was born about 12 hours later. She was posterior. We didn’t know that until she arrived.
Here’s what those 12 hours were like for me.
I go deeper within.
I met her there in the night, so deep, brought deeper surge, by surge. We traveled together into an otherworld. A slow journey heaved forward by primal force connecting me to my mother, to my grandmothers, to my sisters, to all mothers. As I breathed deeper into that dark otherworld, Ellie whispered that 340,000 women were birthing alongside us in the same moment around the world. I prayed and breathed deeper into our collective strength.
The tub room
Dimly lit in the exhaustion of the wee hours of the night, my head floated on wet pillows. Warm water lifted the weight of each surge. I remember letting myself rest in sips. The tiniest dreams floating in and then out as I was called back by every wave.
The hardest part
In the morning, I turned onto my hands and knees in the water. In that new position, a surge came with renewed intensity and it brought me into a deep and satisfying push. I called out to Michael and Ellie, “I feel like pushing!” It was a sweet and exciting moment. I felt overwhelmed with joy that we were ready, this little baby, Michael and I, for the next part. I looked up at Michael and wept there on my hands and knees, tears of joy, exhaustion and oxytocin.
But we were not ready.
My waters had not released and my cervix was only 8 cm dilated. The baby was still high in my pelvis, too. We had been laboring in the hospital for at least 10 hours and gained only 2 cm. Each surge shot around my lower back. The slow progress and sensation in my back (which had been there from the beginning) invited doubt and fear where the joy had been after that first push. I buried myself deeper, knowing that if I engaged with the fear, it would take over. I knew Michael and Ellie were in that space for me, talking with the hospital staff and each other, aware and caring and considering what might be ahead. I was free to exist surge to surge. So I went deeper.
Beneath joy, I found a warrior.
The warrior invited every surge, urged each one stronger and longer. I knew we needed to break the amniotic sack so that she could descend through my pelvis. The warrior labored. But my mind and body were exhausted. Fantasies of our cool, soft bed at home tortured me. I promised myself sleep when the work was done. I heard Ellie and Michael with another consciousness. They were discussing the possibility of artificially breaking my water. I’ll never forget hearing Michael’s voice, “She has more in her. She would want to continue.” He believed in me, he knew my deep desires for the birth of our daughter and his faith chased away my own doubt.
Finally, my waters broke. I climbed into the bed and on all fours, called on the surges to bring her down. I breathed her down during the softer surges and groaned and pushed with the strong ones. I pushed passed where I thought my breath would end. I craved this.
I felt her descending. I felt her in the birth canal. I felt each surge pull her forward and then release her upward when it ended. I was living so deep within myself that time did not exist. Just the surges, her and my breath in darkness. But this part was a turning inside out. For forty weeks my body, mind and heart were focused inward for this baby. She grew deep within the mystery and miracle of my body. But now I drew her out and my body, mind and heart surged outward with her. There was no fear, only the deep and elemental need to complete this work. In the world outside, I knew Ellie and Michael were there with me.
Then I felt her head emerge and my heart began its bursting. She and I were alone in warm, safe darkness and all I wanted was that primal solitude. No hands on my body, no monitors, no cold cords or plastic. Just us and the loving, vigilant presence of my birth companions in the shadows of my consciousness. In the outside world, that happened to be exactly the case. When she saw our baby’s head born, Ellie sent Michael running to fetch the medical staff. Our nurse had left the room, unaware of how close our baby was to her birth. I leaned back toward my heels and brought her out with one final surge.
I received her into my hands.
And every sense burst open with her heat, her wetness, her cry, her skin, her smell, her weight in my hands.
It all vibrated through me, intoxicating synesthesia.
Every sense rewired.
Ecstasy and gratitude and joy. We existed there in that powerful opening. Of me, of her, of motherhood and eternity.
Michael was there beside us and my bursting heart swallowed him up too.
As I held her in that perfect moment, the nurse ran in, followed by doctors. Nothing else mattered or existed. Just her on my chest, Michael by my side.
It was 11:52 a.m. on January 8, 2019. Happy birthday, sweet baby.
-Written By Lucia Parker
Ellie Lindenmayer is the owner of Joyful Birthing. She and her team offer birth doula support to Boston, the North Shore, and surrounding areas.