It was a hot and humid day in late August of 2009. It was three days before the expected due date to deliver my son from the womb. The hospital bags were packed with all the things the books said I would need. The home nursery was ready with all its matchy-matchy bedding of soft “boy” colors and mounds of unopened diaper boxes from the baby showers. The natural birthing classes were under my bulging and uncomfortable belt and all the parenting books had been read; all the birth documentaries watched. My detailed birthing plan had been typed just so and hand delivered to all the humans surrounding the upcoming experience. Family Beginnings (the only natural birthing center at the time in Dayton, Ohio - next to labor and delivery at Miami Valley Hospital) and water birthing were in my clear line of prenatal sight. My natural birth doula was on standby. Dr. Stephan Guy and the Midwives of Dayton had guided me from four months on through my pregnancy, after I switched care providers for not supporting my natural mindset. I had it all “under control”.
I don’t recall how this hot and humid day on August 19th began. But, with vivid recollection, I can still see and feel my swollen ankles. Sometime in mid-afternoon my mother, niece and nephew came over to the small two bedroom apartment my new husband and I had recently moved to, in preparation for our sudden and expanded family. My husband was at work.
I recall sitting on the couch with my three family members, looking at photos. I remember joking and laughing. I remember peeing a little on myself. I remember this being a normal thing and so I went to the bathroom to quietly clean myself off, not telling anyone about my lack of bladder control.
I went back and sat down. Then a few minutes later the trickle of liquid came again. Again, I quietly excused myself to the bathroom. This pattern persisted for some time.
This was no trickle. The flood gates had opened and my waters had broken. After cleaning myself off once again, I tried to calmly express to the hyper-sensitive family members present that “I think my waters just broke.” With a surge of excitement and anxiety, my mother pressured me to leave for the hospital “immediately”.
Thank goodness for the pause.
Thank goodness for the classes and the doula and the birth plan. Thank goodness for my switching OB-GYN offices midway through my pregnancy. Thank goodness Spirit moved through me this hot and humid August 19, 2009 to find my maternal voice inside that encouraged my family to leave.
After the initial external excitement and stress died down, I called my husband. I called my doula. I called Family Beginnings. My husband came home and we began timing contractions. Taking notes. Observing my progress.
Which was slow. Very slow.
My doula called to ease my expanding fears and slow-contracting uterus. She encouraged me to eat. To rest. The time was drawing near and I needed my strength, she advised. Even though the gates had opened by way of my waters breaking, (which begins a time clock in the western medical arena), she encouraged me to take my time. I had twenty four hours to deliver, as I understood but I could labor some in the comfort of my home until my contractions were stronger and closer together.
Evening came and my contractions were still irregular. Somehow, I found my way to sleep. And my goddess, did I sleep. I remember waking up to a phone call around 6am the next morning. It was Family Beginnings! They called to tell me it was time. No more laboring at home. No more waiting. It was time for deliverance. “But my body isn’t ready”, I thought. I hesitantly gathered our bags and my husband drove us to MVH.
When we arrived at the hospital I was admitted to the natural birth center, where they realized how irregular my contractions were. With my strict natural birth plan in mind, I refused any intervention. They hooked me to a breast pump like a sad little cow, praying the nipple stimulation might increase oxytocin, therefore increasing my contractions. What felt like hours passed. And now I had sore, chafed and near bloody nipples; but not yet strong contractions. They expressed the need to be transferred to labor and delivery. I cried. I wailed. I refused. I was losing control and this was not my vision. Exhausted and confused, I eventually obliged.
After being transferred to L&D, they began pitocin to increase uterine contractions. The extreme discomfort worsened as my body’s natural pain threshold could not keep up with the unnatural external stimulation. And yet I still clung to what I could of my natural birth plan with a fervent whiteknuckled hold. And so as I grasped at any possible shred of my birth vision, and through extraordinary levels of pain, I labored without medication. My doula now present, found me a birthing ball! For six long hours, I rode the unnatural waves as my body tried hard to keep up. But I was tired. I was tense. I was beginning to fall into a dark pit of fear and was losing all sense of control from all sides.
So the interventions snowballed, as they usually do. More pitocin. Then pain medication. Then epidural. God, the epidural. Now bed ridden and no longer allowed to labor on the birthing ball, I lay on my back and wait. Hooked up to monitors and tubes and numb, I wait.
This part of the story begins to blur. I remember there being concern about fetal heart rate dropping. I remember the catheter for me and the internal fetal monitor screwed to my little baby’s head. Then, I remember a nurse I hadn’t seen come in and mistakenly express before anyone else “ So I hear we’re prepping you for a cesarean.”
I recall the weariness turn to anger. I remember hearing her get reprimanded behind closed door in the hallway for her unauthorized approach.
Now fully hysterical and angry, I have lost all control of my birth. My birth plan is just a crumpled up piece of paper in the wastebasket of Life. I remember feeling helpless but defiant.
Then something magical happened. Dr. Guy comes in to assess my dilation. I was at a six, they said. With a wave of his magical wand (and his literal human fingers) he did something I could not see or feel and then says excitedly: “Now you’re at an eight. You can start pushing.”
So, pushing begins and I remember having such a disconnect because I am numb and exhausted and have lost all control of myself. The doula brings a full length mirror and faces it at the side end of my bed. This mirror was my saving grace! Now I can see! I can see what is actually happening to my vagina as I push! I can see the crown. I can see the Life and the Light through the darkness and the numbness and the loss of control.
I remember getting quiet. Eerily quiet. And focused. I remember gathering all the strength from the depths of the Earth that I didn't know existed. This place of meditative focus and determination was something so primordial and beyond the mind, even while experiencing something so unnatural as being numb and laying on my back to deliver. I was in between worlds now. And I was focused and determined to bring this womb child fully Earth side
Thirty minutes after Dr. Guy magically appeared and disappeared, and with the assistance of the midwife, the doula, my husband, (and my mother who somehow made her way around my birth plan also to be in the corner of the room, quietly eating pizza), my first and only child, Coen Matthew, was born.
The actual delivery blurs again here. At some point the placenta was delivered. I can recall the uncomfortable belly pushing and the resistance to this “second birth”.
The next thing I remember is my baby being placed on my chest. I can recall all the Hallmark movie scenes of the new mother staring down with her loving eyes and clean face at the new life just delivered. I can also recall my own immediate reaction when my son was placed on my chest so very clearly in my mind: “What the F do I do now?!”
All the books. All the planning. All the classes. All the control. Dead. So True Life and Love and a Mother could be born that hot and humid day of August 20, 2009.
And all I can think, now as I reflect back on my son’s birth story, is just how grateful I am for this experience that did not go according to my detailed, bullet-pointed birth plan; this first powerful lesson of surrender that birthed my consciousness into the stream of Divine Motherhood.