December 10th had finally arrived, the day that baby Myles should have been born, but nothing happened. I was anxious and ready to have this baby. Besides wanting to see his adorable face, I yearned to experience labor and delivery as the anxiety of what the pain felt like was making me extremely nervous.
Anyway, I had an appointment with the midwife, Barb, on December 12th and after completing my check-up, she said I was 3 cm dilated. She said I was progressing nicely, however she suggested that I try some natural remedies to initiate "active" labor. So, what’s the remedy Barb? I asked with curiosity. “Nipple stimulation,” she responded. What in the world is she talking about? I questioned myself. She told me to go home and walk for 40 minutes and then she said to pump both of my breasts for 3 hours. Barb said that the pumping might cause some contractions, but reassured me that they wouldn’t hurt too badly. That sounded brutal and painful, but I was willing to do whatever I needed to do!
I went home that night and walked around the neighborhood feeling seemingly energized. When I returned home, I cleaned the house, ate dinner, put on the movie “Ghost” (I love that movie!), then I sat down for 3 hours and pumped away. To my surprise, the pumping did not hurt at all. It felt a bit awkward, but it was completely painless. I wondered if the pumping really worked since I didn’t experience any kind of contractions or cramping in my abdomen. I guess we’ll see what happens, were my thoughts.
I woke up 3 times that night with the urge of going to the bathroom. I felt a slight discomfort in my tummy, but nothing that alarmed me. I woke up at 7:00 am that Friday morning, December 13th, feeling a bit tired. My husband asked me if he should go to work (work is 30 miles away for him, by the way!) and I responded with a quick “Yes.” “I feel fine,” I told him. So away he went to work. Half an hour later, I rushed to the bathroom with a “stomach ache” and an urge to push my bowels. Every time I would push them, the stomach ache grew in intensity. I was so confused. “Why do I have a stomach ache,” I asked myself. Then it dawned on me- I think I am having contractions! I began timing my “stomach ache pains” and to my surprise they were 3 minutes apart. This can’t be! I thought. Three minutes is way too close, I said to myelf. Then, I decided to call the birth center.
Betty, the other midwife at the Center, answered the phone and while I gasped for air, I told her my contractions were 3 minutes apart. “Okay hun, you need to come over here now,” Betty said. I immediately called my husband and told him he needed to return. Nervously he said, “I’ll be there as fast as I can; I’m stuck in traffic!” Oh great! That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.
While I waited for my husband, I sat in the toilet allowing gravity to ease the contractions. After a while, I stood up and leaned over the kitchen countertop and swayed my hips side to side. I didn’t know why my body moved that way, but I simply complied to the demands of it. While my body contracted, I found myself drifting to some far away place. I felt as if my body was going on a rollercoaster of pains. Up, up, up the pain went and swoosh, down it left. As the pain would escalate, I would take a deep breath and exhaled as it left. Somehow I managed to rhythmically sync my contractions to my rollercoaster of pains and breathing patterns- I felt like I was in the twilight zone.
My husband finally arrived at around 9:00 am. I immediately got into the car and he sped away to the Center. He tried talking to me, but my contractions wouldn’t allow me to talk. I was completely mute and lost in the pain. We finally arrived at the Center at 9:30ish am. When Betty saw me she knew it was game time. She checked to see how dilated I was and calmly answered 7 cm. I couldn’t believe that I had labored all night without feeling it- I got lucky! She asked me if I wanted to lay in the bed and I gently laid myself on it. I immediately felt stabbing pains on my back so I quickly got up and stood over the examining table. I found myself swaying my hips side to side once again. “Good job,” said Betty, “that relieves the tension.” She then asked me to change clothing, which consisted of being naked plus a bra. I didn’t care at that point; I had lost all inhibitions.
While I changed my clothes, Betty prepared the birth pool. She ran a hose inside of it and told me it would take 20 minutes to fill up. In the meantime, I just stood over the pool while I continued moving my body back and forth. During those 20 minutes the contractions grew worse and worse. They felt like period cramps but magnified to the tenth power. I felt like I had no control over my body. My body began shaking as if I were cold, but Betty said that was a natural reaction during labor.
As soon as the pool filled up with water, I got inside of it. The warm water immediately eased my contractions- it felt heavenly. I then squatted down inside of the pool. Again, my body told me to do this, so I complied. While squatting, my hips continued moving side to side and I leaned my torso over the edge of the pool. I gripped my hands together and began breathing louder and louder.
With every breath I took, I would release a loud moan as if being seduced by the vibrations of pain. It was now about 10 o’ clock in the morning and my midwife, Barb, walked in. I was so happy to see her. In my hazy vision I saw Barb in her white scrubs as she leaned over me. Barb is a petite Haitian woman with the most beautiful dark skin and Rapunzel-like dreadlocks. She has the softest voice and the most tender touch. She squatted in front of me and said, “Hi mami, how are you feeling?” I lay my head on her shoulder and she rubbed my back.
I was now surrounded by Barb, Betty, my doula Michelle, my mother, sister and husband. I asked my sister for the time and she said 10:30 am. I couldn’t believe that 3 hours had passed since my first real contraction began. My time orientation was completely warped, but it seemed to be flying by.
All of a sudden my body felt the urge to push. I had no clue what was happening, but my mind began to drift away once again. This time however, I felt like I was in a trance. I was focused on the urges to push and the loud cries that accompanied them. Barb held me once again and told me to put my head on her shoulder. My cries grew louder and louder. I told myself “I could do this.” I repeated the phrase “Pain is good. You are almost done.” But at one point my mind tried to fool me by telling me that the pain was not bearable. It felt like someone was stabbing and ripping my body apart. Barb looked at me and gently said, “Erika, you’re wasting your energy on your screams. I need you to focus that energy on your pushes.” I continued to push with every violent stabbing pain I felt. “Surrender yourself,” said Barb. She said, “Don’t squeeze your sphincter because you’re not allowing the baby to come out. Relax your body.” I released all tension from my bottom part and began pushing again. “The head is out. Just a couple of more pushes Erika,” Barb said excitedly. I pushed a few more times and out went the body. “Catch your baby Erika,” she said, but I was still in a trance and unable to get out of it. I felt like I was going to faint, but she screamed “Erika, Erika come back, look at your baby.” I felt like I was in another world.
Suddenly I snapped back and looked at my baby boy. Barb gave me the baby and I held him tightly in my arms. His cries reassured me I was back to life. At that moment all the pain went away (literally!). It was as if I had not been in any kind of pain at all. I felt so accomplished and fulfilled.
I never imagined that I could endure the pain of labor and delivery without drugs, but I learned that day that it was all a mindset. I had programmed myself to believe that I could do it and I did. I told myself that the pain was temporary and bearable and the pain was indeed short-lived. I reminded myself that this would be like a race with a lot of pain and mental hurdles, but that an amazing award would be given at the end and I did in fact receive the best gift God had ever given me, my baby Myles. Four hours later we were on our way home =)
People have asked me why I chose this method of delivery and all I could say is that it felt like the right thing to do. I truly wanted to experience the pain of birthing my baby- I believe that's how nature intended it to be.
What are your thoughts on the birth pool?
I am grateful for the
gift of motherhood.