It was August 1, 2014 and I was 2 weeks overdue. We were just getting home from celebrating my dear friend's birthday and needed rest, I was scheduled to have my baby in the morning. Each of my 4 previous pregnancies were late, my third was 2 weeks overdue as well, but that didn’t change how frustrated I was with my body. Susan (the mid wife for my second birth 12 years earlier) was so good at encouraging me to be patient! She has a calming nature and it was the perfect balance for my anxious state of mind. You would think that with all of the practice I had in this area I would find it easier to be understanding, but I was dying to hold my baby! Once I hit full term, Susan supported my requests to spur on labor. I had my membranes stripped and took lots of long walks, all in the hopes that I could give it a little nudge. In the end nothing worked, and after 14 long days I had no choice but to be induced. It had never come to this before and I needed to find peace in my situation. After getting home that evening and getting settled into bed, I locked myself in the bathroom and cried, a good hard cry. In that moment I let everything go that I had bottled up over the last two weeks! Trying to be patient, trying to be strong and trusting my body to do what it was designed to do, I surrendered and went to bed.
It was 4:30 the next morning when I woke to a sharp jolting pain. My first thought was, “That’s a contraction!”. Still doubtful, I decided not to wake my husband until I was absolutely sure. Less than 5 minutes later I felt another surge and I knew! I reached over, shook him gently and said, “Babe, I’m in labor”.
My first three births were what I considered “average” lasting 8 hours or so. Each one grew slowly with intensity allowing me to transition at a tolerable pace. There was even a time during my second birth that I was able to lay still with my eyes closed and absorb the contractions. I rested peacefully while letting them ripple through my body. Susan later explained to me that this was referred to as “birthing from within”. I immediately knew that given the right circumstances I would try this method again. My fourth birth was a completely different experience altogether. He came so fast and so furious that I found myself using more of a war cry with every contraction. His birth was 4 short hours of labor, only one of which was actually spent at the hospital. Because of this, I had no idea what to expect. But when I felt my palms get clammy and was having to squat and breath through each contraction, I knew that this experience would be just like the last. We were still at home with a 45 min drive to the hospital and labor was coming on strong. However, this didn’t seem to concern my husband in the same way. He showered, picked out just the right shirt and made the perfect cup of coffee. After all, this wasn’t our first!
By now we had woken our daughter Madison (she was 15 at the time and had had attended all 3 of her brother’s births. The sitter for the boys had arrived and I called Susan to let her know that it was time and we would be there shortly. Finally we were on our way to the hospital. It was around 7am when my husband pulled up to the front to drop my daughter and me off at the door so he could park the car. Since it was still early in the morning, I had to be buzzed in. As I was standing at the hospital entrance waiting for the doors to open, I had a contraction so powerful that I felt the baby literally drop into my birth canal. The feeling was so incredible that I instinctually grabbed myself, almost as if I were expecting her to come in that very moment. In retrospect I had a similar contraction during our near hour long drive that had made me think many times since then that she could have easily been delivered right there on the shoulder of I5 in our minivan. Eventually I was let in and checked in and as the nurse escorted me to my room, Laura my other midwife was walking in. It was in that moment I knew that I could relax and just birth! As soon as we entered the room I immediately stripped down to nothing, I had to be free. Laura didn’t miss a beat, she was massaging my lower back each time my abdomen painfully compressed. As each contraction would diminish she would gently wipe them away, almost as if to give them a blessing as they passed. Susan showed up shortly after we arrived. We hadn’t even been there for 15 minutes and I couldn’t move around the room anymore. I was frozen, sitting on the edge of a chair when I began to bear down with such intensity that my water burst and shot across the room. My husband was so shocked that he jumped! With Susan by my side she leaned in and quietly said, “Baby is coming, how would you like to deliver?” I remember thinking, “Right here!” I honestly couldn’t fathom moving. She eventually persuaded me to get off the edge of the chair and onto the bed, where I was stuck in place on my hands and knees. It was all I could manage to do before I was hit with another gripping surge, tearing through my back and around to my waistline. I realized I was becoming more vocal with each contraction, howling as if to say, “I am woman! Hear me roar!” It was simply primal. By this time we had been at the hospital for only 30 minutes and it was time to push. Although my husband had caught all 3 of our boys (even with the 4th delivery, when the baby was stuck and gave us all a good scare) it just naturally worked out that Susan and Laura were perfectly in place on either side of me and more experienced to assist my delivery in this position. That is the beauty of birth, it never goes as planned and I was lucky to have an understanding partner. The urge to push was unbelievably difficult to control. Maybe it was the speed and intensity of this particular delivery, but I knew how important it was to pace myself. That was completely overshadowed by my overwhelming desire and it felt so good! I could hear Susan ask me to slow down and breath through the next one. I wanted to, but it was almost out of my control. I will never forget the moment she crowned, I yelled, “SUSAN, it BURNS!”. This line has become an inside joke between my daughter, who was videotaping the birth, and myself. We still get a good laugh about it.
She came in one of the most gloriously relieving moments I’ve ever experienced. An epic gush with instant relief! It was 7:30am, 3 short hours after I woke with my first contraction and only 30 minutes after arriving at the hospital. Seconds after her birth I had managed to switch positions and lay on my back, where she was immediately placed on my chest. It was euphoric, I was instantly high. It was such an incredible feeling and I kept getting waves of euphoria for the next two days. After Reagan was born, I had to go through a process of filtering through all that had happened during my speedy labor. It was ferocious in nature but beautiful by design; for me the journey of this birth from start to finish was a preverbal labor of love. Love for myself, for my unborn baby and a love for the natural birthing process. I knew what I wanted, I surrounded myself with a circle of people who trusted and supported me, and despite my previous experience leaving me with fear and trauma, I fought for what I knew in my heart was right and for what I was capable of. This was my birth.