I was 2 weeks late. I had been having cramps on and off for two weeks. I was told it was the cervix softening, that the labor was gonna be easier. I could be a few centimeters open already…
Yet the labor would not start.
After the 41week, we did a little every day to push it along; massages, acupuncture, walking, eating spicy, sex… nothing was working.
Eventually we were down to 2 days left so we did the balloon (one more day and we would have done the castor oil). My midwife Shar came to my house around noon and inserted a balloon through the cervix. My partner Serban assisted Shar in blowing up the balloon which was a funny sight.
By 7pm that night the contractions were 5minutes apart. It must be it. Serban called the midwives and our doula. They came within the hour. My midwife Carol measured my cervix. She looked at me and said “You are one centimeter, honey”. My heart sank. She said “Some women have sprints, some have marathons. You are having a marathon, honey.” That was quite a blow. Because the number on reason for hospital transfers is the exhaustion of the mother and because it was 8pm, she said the best plan was to sleep. She gave me benadryl and a glass of red wine, words of encouragement and her and the doula left. I only learned later that she took Serban aside on her way out to tell him how discouraging that was to me. She advised him to be present and encouraging. It is touching that she took the time and care to do that.
Once everyone left we tried to sleep. Having contractions every 5 to 10 minutes still.. it was not easy to sleep. I put on my earphones and randomly put on audio book “The power of Now” by Eckart Tolle thinking that something heady would put me to sleep. It opened up on the chapter about the pain body. It was saying “you are not your pain body”, that “pain does not exist, its something of the mind”. So it became my mantra during the whole birth, to not be a victim of the pain, to be bigger than the pain.
Serban was kindly checking on me through the night and into the morning. Eventually he called the midwives. Shar came around 7 or 8am.
She measured me in my bath. “You are 6.5cm, I can stretch it to 7! You are having this baby today, here at home!”. It was a glorious moment. Everyone was so happy and cheerful. Serban burst into tears. It was a beautiful emotional moment.
By then I was alternating laying down in the bath, getting on all 4s in the tub, standing in the tub leaning against Serban with my arms around his neck. That position felt the best. My head against his chest, feeling his body and smelling him felt so good and empowering. His presence and support were constant and so important. I could feel his love and his strength by my side the whole time. Having a home birth made him a huge part of the process. A true partner in every step. It changed forever the way we see and respect each other and grew our relationship to new heights.
As the labor went on and we kept alternating positions. Though a few hours later, I was barely at 7. I had a stubborn cervix. I only had 3.5cm to go but each centimeters felt like a long battle to get there. “You are 8”… “You are 8.5”…Time was passing and it was slow going. Yet I was still having strong contractions consistently every 5 minutes. They were getting stronger. My lower back hurt a lot. The contractions felt like pain caving in on all sides but also from top to bottom and from the bottom up as well. I didn’t understand what they were doing. But I kept going through it. My doula kept on coaching me through them, telling me to go with my body. And reminding me to relax my brows, my jaws, my hands, my belly when they were over. And in my head my mantra was changing every time the contractions were getting stronger. “I am not a victim of this pain. I am above it. I can take it. This is what needs to happen. This is what needs to happen.”
At that point I ended up on the bed on all 4s and got really quiet. They all felt like it was slowing down but I was working in my mind. Those quiet moments when I was deep in myself, alone with myself talking inside, were the moments where I was progressing the most. When I was expressing pain sometime I wanted to show the people around me how I felt to rely on them… but I when I went in, I progressed more. This time on the bed my mantra changed again. “Beautiful pain, open me up wide open, open up to 12 centimeters and let my child go through. Open me up to 12 centimeters and let my child go through”. I repeated that over and over and over again. All resistance fell away and I just wanted to open up as wide as possible to be done with it. Maybe it was the first time that I actually said to myself that I wanted her to go through. The first time I allowed her to go through. Knowingly. Taking the responsibility. Allowing being a mother. Asking for it. Not just going through the motion of and against my own fears. Eventually I stood up, had a few more contractions leaning against her father. I nearly broke his back I was pulling so hard. But he stood firm for me and his touch and energy gave me strength. And suddenly I felt her much lower. Felt her in my butt almost. Quickly after I felt she was coming out.
My little Zélie tenderly lied on my chest for a while, the cord still connected to the placenta inside me. Serban and I watching her in awe. Shar helped us latch onto the breast for a first feeding. Serban cut the cord. And after a while, maybe 40min or so, Shar offered to get the placenta out. She moved the baby from my chest to my belly. And as she said it would, a few small contractions started (like period cramps, no more), and the placenta came out on its own. Effortlessly.
I learned that I can do it myself. Granted I could not have done it without her father’s love and strength by my side. Serban was truly amazing throughout. I could not have done it without my midwives. They were angels. But on an internal emotional level, my journey was one of self reliance. As I prepared for the birth, my sister had to leave before my birth (though we really wanted her there) and my doula felt short in a lot of ways. But during the labor, I advanced the most when I was alone in my bath at night and when I was baring down inside myself, telling myself what I knew I needed to hear to get through it.