They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you…”
The whole point of woman-centered birth is the knowledge that a woman is the birth power source. She may need, and deserve, help, but in essence, she always had, currently has, and will always have the power.
We waited till 7am before calling my midwife to give her a heads up and the hospital to book a private room. At 8am I started feeling pains in my lower back, which felt suspiciously like period cramps. They were mild and fleeting and disappeared completely for about 30minutes. Sr Ciska’s advice was to come to the hospital when the pain became really unbearable, and to forget about timing the contractions. (note that this was safe advice as, because I was a first time mom, labour would progress fairly slowly. Please make sure you discuss with your caregiver before doing the same) I busied myself with repacking my hospital bag and readying the nursery. I had planned to go for a walk but the amniotic fluid kept coming in gushes, and I went through a pack of maternity pads before I even left for the hospital. I also planned to have a bath with my homeopathic BirthBath drops but once your water breaks you need to try and stay sterile down there, so I had a long shower instead.
I was drying my hair when the contractions really started in earnest. I remember having to stop what I was doing and fully concentrate on the few seconds of pain, while doing deep long Yoga breaths. Done properly these contractions last about as long as 2 breaths, and this was totally bearable. I walked around the garden a bit after that (I’d read that walking helps bring baby down and aids contractions efficacy) and each time another contraction started I shouted for my husband so I could hold onto him. Its hard to explain what they felt like, as you’ve no doubt heard, the brain deliberately erases memory of birth pain so that we can continue reproducing I suppose, but I do remember that it came in waves of increasing then decreasing intensity. So the beginning and end is easy to ride, and there’s enough warning to get ready to brace yourself for the crescendo. We practiced a few positions in antenatal classes to aid the pain during labour, and the ones that worked best for me were initially standing and holding onto my husband when the pain came then later squatting between his legs, letting him hold me through the pain.
I must emphasize that between contractions you really are completely functional and totally pain-free, and at that stage there was more than enough time to move around and do what I had to do between pains. When the pain became really intense and I could no longer walk or talk through it, we got into the car and made our way to the hospital. Incidentally contractions were now 6 minutes apart and it was midday, 4 hours after contractions began. When you’re in labour, time is measured in contractions, and 4 hours is really nothing if you look at it that way.
By the time I reached the hospital, they were so bad, I had to wait till a contraction passed before getting out of the car. As I got to the reception desk another one hit and the porter came rushing with a wheelchair. I had 2 more contractions before we reached the labour ward. My mother met us there with snacks and energy drinks and I spent some time rocking on the birth ball before my midwife arrived.
When Ciska assessed me I was already 6cm dilated and she suggested we get straight into the birthing bath, which is simply a really big bath. Having her there was like having the conductor at an orchestral performance, completely indispensable. She knew from my facial expressions how far I was and she knew exactly what would relieve my pain at which time. In the bath she got hubby to pour hot water onto my lower back during contractions while mom sang lullaby’s in my ears between them. She urged me to drink all the time and eat if I could (which I couldn’t) When the warm water started slowing the contractions too much she got me to get out and walk for a bit. The gravity made the contractions come really powerfully so she assessed me again and found that there was a lip of cervix not completely dilating. The most painful part of all was when she had to manually move that piece of cervix over baby’s head at the most powerful part of a contraction. I screamed till my throat was raw, which made the pain in my pelvis a lot more bearable. I screamed so much during my birth that the lady in the room next door opted for an epidural before her pain even started. I moaned, I sang, I swore, I screamed… and I will do it all again, because sounding your pain is the best way to let it go, and I let it go till the cows came home!
On the bed Ciska offered me some laughing gas, which I grabbed thinking “what the hell, it’s something to do” I took a few deep sucks on the mask and felt absolutely no different. She also showed my husband how to put his whole weight on the side of my pelvis while I lay on my side. Either the way that this moved my pelvis helped the baby move down or the pain of his weight distracted me from the contraction, but this really did help me and I felt strong enough to get back into the bath. Ciska showed mom and hubby how to massage me in different places at different point in labour and I can’t tell you if this made a major difference or not but they used Heavenly Labour aromatherapy oil throughout, and the smell was at least a distraction from the clinical birth room.
There is a point in your labour, if you’re lucky enough to experience it, called the transition phase. It is essentially the last 2 to 3 hours of contractions and a period where baby really settles deep in your pelvis. My own experience of this phase was that just as you get used to the pain (a kind of intense, deep lower back / period pain), it changes and suddenly its a whole new kind of pain (something more like your lower pelvis widening) I also felt myself go into a more trance-like state, during which everything else in room disappeared, and it was just me and the pain and the moaning. It was at this point that I very bravely told my mom to “shut the f*** up!”, as every sound or movement or sensation takes you out of your trance and you feel the pain more intensely. Ciska’s advice during this phase was to hold onto a pole, stand up in the bath and gyrate my hips with the pain. My mother (who forgave me quite easily thank heaven) later described the scene “like watching an Amazonian princess do a strip dance in a trance” I remember looking at my husband while feeling my eyes roll backward in my skull, and seeing tears in his eyes. All he could do was mutter “wow, you’re amazing…
Throughout all this otherworldly type drama, Ciska kept asking me if I was feeling like bearing down. I really didn’t know what that was supposed to feel like till I felt it. Its such an obvious urge to push, you can’t imagine. My plan was to have a water birth and have my baby be delivered through the water. (Benefits of birthing this way has been demonstrated for years and there is endless amounts of literature to this effect online) As soon as the urge to push began I knew I had to get out of the tub. You see, Vincent Palotti’s baths have no handles and therefore there’s no traction against which to push. I knew that I was going to push with all my heart and there was no way I could do that in a slippery bath. So I got out the bath and Ciska pulled out a marvelous invention that I had never seen before… a Birth Stool.
|Birth Stool: Courtesy of http://inspiredlivesobrien.blogspot.com/|