A Simple Kind of Birth is the follow-up to our previous post, A Lamentation of Birth.
This birth story can not be fully understood unless you know about the birth of my first child, a beautiful, spirited boy. I was naive and uneducated about birth; I had no clue that there were any options other than having an obstetrician in a hospital.
My 18 hour labor started early one morning with my water breaking at home, I got right to the hospital where I was laid in bed, subjected to at least 42 cervical checks (I lost count), every single intervention that they could present, including an epidural that did not work properly causing me to shake violently, all culminating in a very traumatic ‘emergency’ Cesarean Section for failure to progress/fetal distress, wherein the spinal was placed ‘too high’ and I could not feel my lungs breathing for the entire operation.
I suffered in silence from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Postpartum Depression in the months following, nobody knowing the true depth of my sorrow. In August of 2006, my husband mentioned having another child someday; I agreed to consider it on the condition that I would not have another Cesarean Section. In the months following,
I delved in to research, reading anything and everything having to do with all things birth, I did little else in those months but read about birth, talk about birth and breastfeed my son. I wanted to be fully prepared to ask or answer any questions I had to; I read all of my mother’s nursing books, she had just gotten her RN degree that very same year, so they were accessible. I realized all of the things I could/should have done differently in order to get the natural, joyful birth I had desired; afterwards, I wrote my Lamentation of Birth, my son’s birth story. I attended a few loca International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) meetings and joined the email list under the advice of a local homebirth midwife who had a Cesarean Section herself, and soon after I joined ICAN as a member.
My husband and I decided after all our research and revelations we would be happiest and safest having an unassisted birth at home when we got pregnant again. In November of 2006 we did just that, unbeknownst to us… well, more bluntly, our condom broke. I continued breastfeeding our son until about April when he weaned himself, much to my dismay, because I so loved our nursing relationship. I had not wanted to conceive until he was at least two years old, but the universe had other plans I guess…
All in all, my pregnancy was very healthy and happy, I was active and very excited to have another baby coming. I did my own prenatal care, even checking the baby’s heart rate from time to time with a stethoscope I borrowed from my mother, save one prenatal visit to an obstetrician to get ‘proof of pregnancy’ in case I needed it for a birth certificate or something. I continued learning all I could about birth all the while forming my own ideas and ideals; making it my own, so to speak.
My labor started very slowly and lightly with irregular, weak contractions on Friday night August 17th, my sister was over for the weekend and we took her home on Saturday evening. The whole hour and a half drive out to my parents home I was having ‘secret’ contractions every few minutes, because we were keeping my family in the dark about our birth plans so as not to cause needless conflict and stress, so I could gestate in peace. On our way home, I knew I wanted to have this baby soon, so we decided to go to the mall and walk around for a few hours. On Sunday August 19th when it came time for my husband to get ready for work at about 9 pm we were not sure if he should go in or not, so I asked him to check my cervix, I was open to 6 cm, so we figured he could call in to work and stay with me, get the birth tub ready and get our son in to bed. My wonderful husband made me some wild rice soup because I figured I was in for a long night and I would be hungry, by the time I finished the bowl I was ready to get in the tub and relax, I must have been waiting for my son to be sleeping for labor to really pick up…
In the tub, I was moving around constantly in slow voluptuous movements; I was never still during a contraction, if my husband laid his hands on me in any way, even if it was very gently or lightly, I felt as if I was put in a cage and I would panic causing the contraction to hurt rather than just take focus, I needed complete control over any touching, so I touched him when I needed contact, but he had to keep his hands off. An hour or two later, I must have been in transition; I was in and out of the tub every other contraction because nothing felt ‘right’ for very long; I thought to myself, ‘I must be in transition; I am acting like an animal right now!’ Finally, I chose to make a little nest of pillows on the mattress we had put on the floor in front of our couch. I was leaning on the couch and my pillows in between contractions and rising up like a wave and either kneeling or squatting down deeply for contractions. All of my thoughts at this point were ‘soft and round’, like a woman.
After a while I started sleeping between contractions which was so nice because I was beat, and my sleepiness must have been catching because I looked up at my husband who was sitting on the couch and he was sleeping too! At this point the ‘pain’ was very intermittent (when a contraction would ‘sneak up’ on me, it hurt more), and mostly located in the tops of my thighs and sometimes in my hips.
Suddenly starting at the base of my skull and moving down like a wave, my body started pushing; it was a very strange sensation, kind of hot, dizzy and tingling like being tipsy. I looked up at my husband quizzically and said, “I’m pushing?” He gently replied “I know; it’s okay if that’s what your body has to do.” I taught him well, I think. I had been so determined not to consciously push at all, to just ‘go with the flow’ so to speak, and that is what happened, I made sure not to think about it too much.
My water broke with a loud pop during a contraction I was rolling my hips through, after the contraction I compulsively looked down at the sheets to make sure the water was clear, it was, and I wondered why I looked, I Knew it was fine… I continued rocking, rolling my hips, rising and falling and pushing when the need struck. I liked when my body pushed, it (and I) felt so ethereal, so powerful and Devine, yet very primal at the same time.
I kept this up for a while watching the trees sway back and forth in rhythm with me, mirroring the ebb and flow of my body, suddenly I was compelled to tell my husband “If you’re going to catch this baby, you better get back there.” I guess I did not want him jumping behind me abruptly and shaking the bed when I needed concentration and stillness.
I felt inside of myself to see what I could feel, and I swore I was touching a tiny butt cheek, I asked my husband what he could see, the baby was just centimeters from crowning and he could not see anything. After a few more contractions (they seemed very far apart, who knows how long it really was), I asked him “What is it?” (meaning a butt or a head, obviously I knew it was a baby) he said nothing for a long time because he could not tell what it was, aside from a wrinkly wet ‘thing’, and he wisely avoided saying “I don’t know” knowing intuitively a reply like that would not be received very well at all, very soon though, he saw it had hair, and told me so; I was a little relived, although I was totally comfortable being at home by ourselves if the baby had been breech, I was just so sure that the baby was in the LOA position and I honestly would have been a little annoyed if I had been wrong.
Out of nowhere it felt like my husband was pulling my labia apart to get a better look, I said, “Don’t touch, don’t touch me!” he was not touching me at all, although he did not say anything back, I got the impression the intense stinging was not going to stop, and was the baby’s head, not his hands. I got scared at that point, the fact that a baby was coming out of my vagina some how snuck up on me, and the sting got way worse (I will probably always wonder if it was the head stretching me open more, the fact that I was scared, or both…), with the next push my husband said the head was out, and then said, “Hang on honey, the cord’s wrapped.” Now, in my head I was screaming ‘No, no, no, that feels wrong, stop touching, please.’ But, I actually said, very calmly and sweetly, “Don’t worry, just unwrap it when the baby’s out.” I felt the baby turn to let the shoulder out, and the baby slid out in to his hands on the bed.
The stinging was instantly gone, and I turned around and held my bright pink baby so close, I said, “Hi, oh my baby, I love you so much, I’m your mama, I love you! Hi there, oh, was it so bad to be born?” I felt a little lump on the side of the head and I kissed it and said, “Oh, that’s what that squishy thing was!” The baby had had its head tilted to the side and I tore a little on the right side of my vagina because of that…
I moved the baby off my chest for a second to see what gender we had made together and I saw she was a very pretty girl, I Knew we had a girl through the whole last trimester of my pregnancy, I just knew… my husband had seen it was a girl right away, but he remembered I wanted to see for myself and not be told. I was examining her very long cord, which she had not only wrapped around her neck but also her body, it was really pretty shade of bluish purple. Wise baby, protecting herself from a cord prolapse like that!
I was amazed with how girly and delicate her hands and feet were, my son’s were so huge compared to hers! She was so girly from the start, very pretty, delicate and SO loud; she is woman, and we hear her ROAR! I decided to get back in the still warm and inviting birth tub to clean of just a bit, covered in blood and meconium as we were… we got out after my husband took the bloody sheets and plastic off the bed and we crawled in and wrapped in our favorite wool quilt and settled in to nursing while we waited for the placenta.
The cord had turned white and limp, so we tied and cut it, I got up to push the placenta out in to a bowl, and it did not hurt like I was expecting it to. I was honestly really mad I had to do it, I thought it would be horrible. I looked it over and it was whole and intact and a bit heavier than I had expected. I smelled it for some reason, and it had a unique and kind of cool smell, nothing I would bottle, but interesting nonetheless…
I ran a hot bath for myself so I could wash off a little better as I still had blood and meconium on my face. I talked to my mom and my dad on the phone, finally being honest and open with them about our birthing at home which was a relief. They were in awe, and not upset at all as far as I could tell.
We settled in to bed for the night until around 7 am, when my son woke up to meet his sister. He came out and said, “Baby!! Meow, baby!!” I guess she sounds like a kitty. He gave her kisses and was so sweet; to this day he will never refuse to kiss ‘his’ baby, he will sometimes refuse to kiss Mama and Daddy, but never his baby.
After doing this I feel like I can do anything I put my heart in to, it is amazing to feel like that again, after the cesarean with my son, I did not feel like myself, a lot was taken away from me that day, not just the chance to push out a baby, but a lot of my ‘self’ was taken, a lot of my fire and spirit along with most of my confidence. I had been banking it all up since August 2006 when I had resolved to take control of my birthing, putting it all in layaway a little at a time, and I finally got it all back the night I had my girl, with interest! My husband says I even look different. I definitely feel different, I feel redeemed and proud of myself for accomplishing so much in such a short time, I also feel like I absolutely must help to spread this feeling to as many women as I can.
I know that unassisted birth is not ideal for everyone, but for me, it is the only way I feel I could safely and securely give birth; for me, any interference at all, ‘good’ or ‘bad’, would have ruined my baby’s birth. I respect the need for well trained obstetricians in hospitals or operating rooms, in the cases when medical care is prudent; so it isn’t like I have something against doctors or hospitals, it is just, I personally do not need all that to give birth.
I love and respect the work that midwives do, their wisdom and their dedication to a profession that is really unappreciated by our society at large; I have every intention on training as a midwife in the future when my children are a little older, not requiring my undivided attention and are no longer breastfeeding, so it is not as if I have something ‘against’ midwives, I simply would never have been comfortable being myself in front of a midwife, even if she was a friend, I would never have really been able to let go and just birth. I know that for sure.
The simple truth is this: my husband is the only person who really knows what I am all about, he really knows what I need and want and he can do it without disturbing me or even without thinking, and in the moment of birthing, that is the most important thing, I think. A great number of couples do not have the sort of relationship conductive to unassisted birth, and some do; a great number of women do not have a personality conductive to birthing alone, and again, some do. I had no real desire to be all alone, I wanted him to be with me, idle but present, and that is what he was; it was perfect. For us. I think we in the birthing ‘community’ need to realize everyone has individual needs and desires, some need and desire to be completely alone, some want a midwife, some want their mothers, some want an obstetrician and an epidural and we all need to respect and support those needs and wants.
All women need to have choices, many varied choices that they can choose from freely without worry of people thinking they are ‘crazy’ or ‘weak’ or ‘radical’. I felt the need to keep our plans for an unassisted birth a secret among many of our family members and friends until after the fact because I could not deal with the fearful, rude and even downright snarky comments and ‘looks’ during my pregnancy if I were to be peaceful and happy, which has since made me resolve as long as a woman has educated herself with accurate truthful information about all of her choices I have no place thinking (or saying) anything but supportive things, even if she has decided to have an elective cesarean operation after being fully informed of risks and benefits. I think we could all resolve to make sure women are well educated about their options for birth. It is in our hands, we have the ability to change things for the better, if only we would act to do so. We must let the well educated woman choose what is best for her and her family in birth, and then just let her choice be, whether or not we think it is the ‘right’ choice; it will make for happier, easier pregnancies and a much more simple kind of birth.
by, Jasmine Rae Ojala
Thank you for reading the story of my girl’s birth. Feel free to contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org.