It's been more than three weeks now since my son was born. I try to put the experience into words so that I may share it with others, but find that I cannot. Like my second daughter, Nova, my son was born , unassisted, at home. I made the decision to birth without medical attendants both times after a great deal of prayer, meditation, and no small amount of uncertainty.
The first time I decided to give birth unassisted, I KNEW it was the right choice, though it was a difficult decision because I was the only one in my life who really knew that. Intuitively, I felt sure that if I gave birth in a hospital, something very, very bad would happen. I don't believe this was just fear. I didn't have that feeling with my first daughter (hospital born) or my son. During that birth, we had some "complications" that, thankfully, resolved without major incident. However, I feel certain that things would have turned from bad to worse very rapidly had we been in a hospital.
When I became pregnant with my son, I didn't have those strong feelings about giving birth at home versus in the hospital. Instead, I had a tremendous amount of FEAR. Fear of birth, fear of pain, fear of persecution, and above all, fear of death. I was afraid of a big baby, of my baby getting stuck and dying, of transporting to the hospital where who-knows what kind of drama would ensue. I was afraid something would go terribly wrong and I would lose my children, my husband, my self- everything. I seriously considered a planned cesarean section. It was the only way, I felt, to be sure that my baby didn't get stuck being born.
Ultimately, I decided that my fears were just that- fears. I opted to have my baby at home, prepared to the very best of my ability. I mentally prepared myself to the possibility of transferring, facing and accepting that fear, and then I moved on to preparing for the birth I hoped to have. I visualized the different ways I might labor and birth, the ways I would cope with fears and sensations, how I might breath. I said affirmations and practiced relaxation techniques when my anxiety threatened to overwhelm me. I printed out affirmations and taped them to my computer monitor and desk, and bought a laminated affirmation poster and taped in my bathroom. I prayed. And somehow, I knew. Everything would be okay. My fears were still there, but deep inside, I knew that it would all work out the way it was meant to. I trusted.
Those nine months felt like an eternity as they were passing. It seemed as if I would never give birth, and part of me hoped it was so. The other part of me, of course, was ready to be DONE. The fatigue, the sore hips and pelvis, the insomnia, the inability to roll over! Finally, December began. I had deliberately avoided handing out one "definitive" due date, although I knew the date that I would most likely be hitting the 40 week mark. I felt certain that I WOULD NOT give birth on that date- I would give birth earlier (I hoped), or later (I believed).
I grew antsy as the days passed. I had bouts of contractions, pre-labor, diarrhea, nesting. Each time I would think, soon. Soon. But another day would pass. December 9th, I made plans to go out shopping with a friend two evenings later. I went home that evening, put my two year old to bed, and treated myself to a movie, popcorn, and red raspberry leaf tea. My husband brought home some peanut M&Ms at my request. During all this, I had sporadic, very infrequent contractions. Yet they were different. I had odd twinges inside my cunt. Not cervical, something odd, different. My thought changed from "Soon," to "Maybe..." And as I prepared to go to bed for the night, I was seized with horror that my baby might possibly be born in the disaster that was our bedroom. It had to be clean, decluttered, packed! (We we supposed to be moving in a week and a half.)
A few hours later, very little had been accomplished, and I was still not having regular contractions. Just odd twinges inside me that begged to be pushed upon. So I made love to my dear husband in a strange place of surrender and trust. He fell asleep around two, knowing that I was having contractions, but not knowing where I was with them. I wanted him to sleep. I wanted to be alone for a while, and I felt sure that it would be many hours before my baby was born, if my contractions didn't peter out on me again. I wandered around the house for a little while, laboring, before getting into a candle lit bath.
From here, it seems there is very little to say. At 3:05, my water exploded with a loud pop and a gush. It was shocking, I think to both me and my little guy, who squirmed all over the place inside of me. I had still been in denial, a bit, but I knew now, it was on. There was no turning back.
I got out to set up the last of my birthing supplies and post a quick note online that my water had broken and I was in labor. More water gushed out with the next contraction, soaking the towel I was sitting on and the carpet beneath my exercise ball. It didn't take long before I got back into the bathtub.
My vocalizations began getting loud around 4 am, and woke up my husband. He quietly came in to see how thing were going. I was getting pushy, but couldn't seem to explain that, or even really comprehend the fact myself. I was beyond intellectual thought. I told him I wanted to go to the hospital and get drugs. He suggested we wait 15 minutes. This somehow made sense to me, and so I waited. And soon began to push in earnest. And push, and push. And ever so slowly, in my dark, warm bathroom, my son's wrinkly head began to emerge. It was as normal as taking a shit, but my Lord! I've never taken a shit that big. I also experienced the "ring of fire" that is described in so many birth books and stories, but had experienced only briefly myself in my previous births.
Then- his head was born! Finally! He began to move and squirm inside of me, and his arm was born, and then his other arm and shoulders and, finally, he "swam" out into our bathtub, into the world. It was 5:05 am, exactly two hours after my water had broken and I had accepted that my baby was going to be born. December 10th 2004, my due date! Elliott Maxwell, my son.
Within an hour, I was in bed, nursing both my brand new baby and my two year old. Soon my six year old woke up and came to meet her new brother.
It was so simple and basic, yet I feel like there are a million tiny details to intimate and sacred to share. It was the way it was meant to be.
I have three amazing children now- two daughters and a son. Twice I have lost little ones very early in pregnancy. Each of these souls have taught me so much. I am beyond grateful to have had them as a part of my journey. Each pregnancy, each birth, each milestone we reach together changes me, changes who I am as a woman and a mother. Each time I give birth, it seems that I am reborn. With each rebirth comes change. I am changed, my children, my husband, my extended family are all changed. My relationship with myself and the Divine is changed. I am blessed and thankful.
In my selfishness, I want to keep my story and experience to and for myself, to savor it. Still, I will share what I can articulate in the hope that my experiences will help to inspire positive growth, change, and thought in my extended circle of friends and acquaintances. May it leave you as blessed as it has me.
Addendum: He was a big baby, but birth worked! He did not get stuck on his way out. He weighed in at 10 lbs 9 ozs on his third day of life, the day my milk came it. He most likely was at least 11 lbs at birth, possibly as much as 12 pounds! (Most babies lose roughly 10% of their body weight the first two-three days.) He was 21 inches long and his head circumference was 14 ½ inches.