– Posted by Leah
(Read Mark’s Version of BabyRoX’s birth, Here.)
So last Wednesday, as some astute readers have surmised…there was no Wednesday by Leah post because Leah was in LaborLand! But I hope today’s post will make up for that missing one…
Wow, I’m not sure I can come up with the words to fully describe Jonah’s birth. Awesome. Intense. Empowering. Exhausting. The most incredible, amazing thing I’ve ever done.
That still doesn’t really describe it. But it’s a start.
I have to give a huge shout out to my most wonderful partner and husband. Mark was with me every step of the way…at least every step that I needed him. (There were chunks of time when I wanted to labor alone.) And our phenomenal doula Becca gets another huge shout out, because she was also with me every step of the way – and with Mark, helping him support me in the best ways. She had a magic carpet bag or something full of soothing little comforts, like fuzzy socks and lavender oil. Becca somehow intuitively knew just what I needed at different points. I don’t think I talked for much of my labor…at least the last half of the 13 hours. I was somewhere else entirely. Deep within myself, working with Jonah, floating/drifting/pulsing/
melting/surrendering…and, finally, pushing through each contraction.
I wasn’t really aware of time…it felt more realistically like 4 hours to me, but somehow 13 passed from the onset of regular contractions to Jonah’s arrival. I went from having 2 hours of am-I-in-labor, mild, irregular contractions to much more intense ones that came 2 minutes apart and lasted a minute long. Bam! No slow build-up to the more frequent contractions for me. I dilated progressively – not as quickly as one might think given the frequency of my contractions from the start – but my body did just what it needed to do. My wonderful midwife and her assistants would check me periodically and listen to Jonah’s healthy and strong heart rate. But they mostly just let me labor and stayed out of sight. They filled the birth tub with 140 gallons of hot water. They gave me Vitamin B drops and Becca kept me hydrated and fed me honey sticks. And I just kept on relaxing into the contractions one after another. I didn’t get much of a break between them so I didn’t really break out of my relaxed state until near the end, when I felt the enormous pressure of Jonah descending and the fatigue of laboring for 10 or 11 hours and I was ready to switch into active mode and get him out. Squatting, walking, and finally getting in the tub and pushing pushing pushing for around 45 minutes.
The tub felt amazing when I got in – the intense pressure bearing down on my bum eased up. I was around 8 or 9 cm dilated at that point and after about 15 minutes in the tub, where the contractions mercifully spaced out and gave me a short, blissful break, I was ready to push. But I was also insanely hot. Becca and Mark kept me cool with icy, lavender-scented rags. Mark gripped my hands and steadied me with each forceful pushing contraction. And slowly Jonah descended. This part seemed the longest to me – the previous 12 hours of labor were nothing compared to the pushing stage. Partly because I wasn’t in my relaxed state anymore, but I also think the forcefulness of the contractions and the intensity of the pressure factored in to making this relatively short stage of my labor seem so long.
Finally I felt Jonah slide out of me. That was just… WOAH. Our midwife told me to reach down and hold my baby, but I was gripping onto Mark’s hands and reeling from the intensity and force of birthing my precious boy, and I said, “No – You get him!” Somehow someone passed him to me and I sat down in the tub in complete shock and relief and joy, holding my son. 7 lbs, 19.5 inches, perfect and beautiful and with a super strong grip. Once the cord stopped pulsing, Mark cut it and I was able to bring Jonah to my chest (short cord! he could only reach my stomach with the cord attached) and start nursing. He latched on right away and nursed for a good hour. What a little champ. I delivered the placenta, then got out of the tub and headed to bed for a check-up and some stitches, with Jonah just nursing away!
It was amazing. I was so thankful to be in my own home. To be surrounded by such a skilled, supportive birth team. My midwife Charlotte, her two assistants – Rachel and Chasery, our doula Becca – they each brought something special and important to the birth. To making me feel cared for, strong, and completely capable. Mark somehow managed to tweet, take pictures, drink coffee, boil water, eat Thai food, check on my mom who was waiting in the parking lot because she is a crazy mama who loves me too much…and yet never not be there for a second that I needed him. I don’t know how he did it and I’m eager to read HIS version of our birth story.
Not once during my labor did I ask to go to the hospital, or ask for pain medications, or say I thought I was dying. None of those thoughts even occurred to me. What helped tremendously, aside from the incredible support I received was a.) being in a space where I was most comfortable, which for me was my own home. Being at home really helped normalize labor for me – yes, it was intense, but hey, I’m just chilling at home with Borat on TV, b.) being able to relax, thanks to a combination of a background in meditation, hypnobirthing techniques, and the Reiki I received distantly from my Reiki Master, Cyndie and my aunt Terri, and in-person from Mark and Becca, and c.) understanding and remembering that this was a temporary experience. Becca, Mark, and Charlotte would occasionally say “You’ll meet your baby soon!” or “Jonah is coming!” and it would remind me that the contractions weren’t going to last forever. At one difficult point near the end, when the pressure bearing down on my tailbone really made me think it was going to crack, I saw myself fast-forwarded 12 hours and holding Jonah…and I realized that labor really was almost over, and I just had to put up with a bit more intensity and push past the pain and it really would all be over and I would be holding my son.
Labor was not some horrific, pain-worse-than-death experience for me. It was painful, yes. But it was a totally manageable pain. A temporary pain. A pain with a beautiful purpose. A pain that drove me deeper inside myself than I’ve ever been, that made me realize the strength of my mind and spirit…and the strength of my physical body. I don’t want to be in labor every day, that’s for sure. But would I do it again in a heartbeat? Heck yeah. Labor wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it might be. And again, I have to thank my wonderful birth team for making it such a fantastic experience. For making me feel so loved and so empowered. Charlotte, Becca, Rachel, Chas, and Mark – you. are. AWESOME.
The next morning Mark and Jonah and I were snuggled up on our ComfySack. I had some hot cocoa, Mark had a cup of coffee, our kitties were curled up next to us, we were staring at our beautiful son…it was a perfect lazy morning with an impossibly perfect new family member…and I sat up and said, “OMG, if I had given birth in a hospital, we would still be there now!” It seemed so strange and… unnecessary. And just not at all how I would want to spend our first hours as a new family, with nurses bustling about and hospital smells and the like. And then I walked into Jonah’s room to change his diaper, and remembered giving birth there the night before. I can’t wait to tell him that he was born is his room. That his first experience outside the womb was of warm water, gentle hands, dim lights.
That he never had to leave his parents, that he wasn’t jostled by strangers or scrubbed or given shots or had goop put in his eyes. The people at our birth were people I knew. People I had seen for my prenatal care. Not some rotating group of doctors or midwives. My blood pressure was taken by the same woman who took it during my prenatal visits. Jonah was weighed and measured by the same woman who measured him every month of his gestation. Jonah was born surrounded by people who were excited to meet him, who had played a role in his growth and development up until his birthday. People I trusted. People who knew me, who knew my husband, who knew and respected our wishes for the type of birth and care we wanted to receive.
Few things in this world are perfect. Jonah’s birth .. it was. Perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing.