I wasn’t exactly sure where to start this story or why. Sometimes I wonder if our greatest fears fill us with such strong emotion because in some way we know they are exactly what we came here to learn from the most. Reading other people’s stories has always been helpful as I process my own. I have gone back and forth over sharing all of this. I have decided to write it all down in hopes that it can be of some help or hope to others. At first it felt self-indulgent and maybe even irrelevant. But I’ve been thinking that this is what isn’t shared enough, it doesn’t even matter if its good or bad, it’s just not talked about enough. It really hit me this weekend when I was waiting for an elevator and a woman made an attempt at being funny by telling me from the opening of a full elevator that she didn’t think all of me would fit, all 8 months pregnant me. Funny, haha. Except that pregnancy isn’t funny. It’s truly a miracle. All the things that have to go just right for a new life to grow from virtually nothing almost seems impossible, it’s delicate. It’s not easy to grow someone from scratch, to share your body so completely. It can be hard mentally, physically, emotionally, exciting, empowering, scary and just about every other range of emotion possible, sometimes all at once or all in the span of a few minutes and most of it especially the unpleasant, sad or inconvenient feelings we endure silently on our own. I would like to stop being the strong silent type and in the process empower more women to do the same. I would love to hear your story if you would like to share it as well. Nothing about this is meant as any kind of advice, it’s just simply a piece of my journey to motherhood of 4 babies, one made it earth side and thriving, one I knew only a way a mother knows her child, one was barely here and one I’m currently preparing to meet in June. I will break this into segments and offer trigger warnings for the pieces that involve loss. If you are looking for a positive birth story, this section is relevant.
Early on in my career as an acupuncturist I started teaching a yoga for fertility class and had an influx in patients seeking pregnancy. I always felt conflicted and heartbroken for these women. It was the one thing that I “treated” that was so absolute: either they were pregnant or not. The urgency, the devastation. I often felt ill equipt to help. Deep down I was terrified that some day it would be me.
My cycle had never been regular especially since grad school and I wasn’t being consistent in the pro-active department ironically enough. A few years went by and I decided to get serious about taking care of myself. I wasn’t ready to think about kids but I wanted my body to be healthy when that time came. I wanted to be practicing what I was preaching and I was tired of running at half speed all the time and the frustration of not understanding what was going on with my body. I took my own advice and started doing acupuncture 2-3 times a week and taking herbs for about 3 months and finally after years of cysts, annovulatory cycles, breakthrough bleeding, insomnia, fatigue, etc etc my body healed itself and I felt healthy, rested and strong.
Shortly after, we conceived our first child in celebration of our engagement quite by surprise. My pregnancy was fairly uneventful, even if my life was not. Growing a thriving practice from scratch, planning an international wedding, teaching. I felt strong, empowered, focused like I could do anything. I loved my growing belly. I read everything I could get my hands on related to natural child-birth, making informed, evidence based decisions regarding all things labor and read so so many positive birth stories. A few years before I had seen the Business of Being Born and even then I knew I wanted to birth my babies at home. I was fortunate to have several friends who had already had low intervention, drug free home, hospital and birth center births. They were my inspiration. I never had a doubt that I would not rock a natural birth at home and all stars aligned for just that to happen.
I was in no particular hurry for pregnancy to be over. At my 40 week appointment I was 3 cm dilated and stopped working. Nothing changed that week except my patience. I did some acupuncture to help ready my body and not even a snow storm threw me a contraction. 8 days later I was 5 cm with a bulging bag. My midwife assured me baby was coming but I still felt doubtful even though looking back I was most likely in early labor I just didn’t realize it.
My husband and I had what would be our last dinner out as a couple and I started to feel slightly crampy. Driving home my back contracted fairly regularly and my husband missed our exit forcing us the long way home. Once home, I did some acupuncture that immediately relieved my discomfort. I watched my favorite show and then told baby to give me 2 hours of sleep and if they were ready to get started I would be too. I told my husband we better blow up the tub before we went to bed, just in case.
Two hours later I woke up to pee and when I laid back down my water broke. I leapt from the bed and said “Christian, my water broke!” as I ran to the bathroom. “Call the doula!” Christian sprang from the bed and before I had even made it to the bathroom I yelled again, “Call the midwife!” as my first real contraction hit, active labor was here. I gave Christian a job to do (laying down plastic and filling the tub as I settled into labor) I was kneeling over my birth ball breathing deeply through each contraction and playing a game of bejeweled blitz in my head. When our doula arrived I asked, “how did you do this more than once?” and was taken completely into laborland. Each contraction seemed manageable if I could breath louder than the intensity of it, which probably only makes sense if in labor.
It all sounds so romantic now to say I was swept up with each contraction, giving my whole attention to it. Nothing else mattered but breathing. I remember my arms starting to shake on the ball, it was no longer comfortable but I also didn’t know if I could move either, at least this position I knew. Our doula suggested laboring on the toilet and I did, hating the intensity of every moment and again I didn’t know if I could move from this position. Even though I was uncomfortable the idea of drugs never crossed my mind. My body was doing a job and each contraction felt like I was working towards something, it all felt necessary to the process. Finally the tub was full and I was complete and could go in the water. It felt so soothing. I clung to the side and was surprised how difficult and awkward it felt to push. It also felt like I would be in this state of in between forever. It was just my new normal. My eyes were closed pretty much all of labor and the voices around me seemed so far away and the conversation so bizarre. I felt like I was on another planet all together and would moan loudly as I felt the baby descending just so everyone in the room knew this was hard work. “Oooohhhhh!” I would say and they would respond back, “Good! Deeper, lower.” I smiled even in the moment remembering my bradley teacher and yoga classes when we would talk about vocalizing deep, low tones to open the cervix.
After an hour of pushing the midwife checked again and said a 2nd water bag needed to be broken so baby could come down. I wasn’t too excited about that but after, baby and I made progress and after a position change and several pushes I felt the ring of fire. It felt like a welcome focal point, something to push past. The head crowned just after 5am and just like that shoulders and body slide right out. All of a sudden this other worldly creature with a plume of red hair was laid on my chest. I was in disbelief this whole person had been inside of me, had grown from basically nothing. Such a humbling experience. These little eyes peered out so alert and aware and quiet. We locked eyes and just stared and stared.
Eventually the assistant asked, “So, did you have a boy or a girl?” We were so in awe it never occurred to us to check. I lifted the baby up and said, “Oh, it’s a girl.”
The cord was cut and Lia was handed to Daddy for the first time as I got out of the tub and delievered the cool, smooth placenta. We were reunited in bed while I got a few stitches and baby was measured and weighed. We tried breastfeeding, feeling so strange and awkward, a threshold crossing of what breasts had always been to being used as they were intended. Before leaving the midwife gave me some homeopathy assuring me that tomorrow I would feel like a bus ran over me. I was sore but so well attended that I felt pretty great the next day as I ventured to the first floor and we began our life as a family.