Bérénice & Zélie – Birth story

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 1pm I started having contractions every 15 minutes. I stayed in bed. going through it…. measuring… I tried to watch a film but it was too intense. I was focusing on my body. Waiting to see if it was another false alarm or if it was really it.

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.

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Around 2am I still couldn’t sleep so I went into my bathroom to take a bath. I drew myself a hot bath, put candles on, my eye mask on, I rested my head on my pillow in my bath and I put a white noise of ocean waves on my cellphone speaker. That soothing sound kept on going throughout the rest of the labor (which was a total of 28h). The water felt nice but I was a bit disappointed. I thought it would cut more of the pain. To be honest during that night I thought to myself “why the hell am I not on pain meds right now, what am I doing??”. But I was so glad to be home, in the warm candle light, in my bath, alone. I stayed there all night. I was moving through the contractions, thinking of Eckart Tolle and talking to the pain. I kept saying in my head “Beautiful pain, open me up and pass through me, Beautiful pain, open me up and pass through me” It helped to talk to it as something different than me. It helped to know it was just passing through. It helped to call it beautiful and to honor the task it was accomplishing. It helped putting myself above. I kept on thinking “I am above it, I am not a victim of it”. And in between, I was relaxing in my bath. It was a strange 1/2 sleep state I stayed in, all night, until the sun rose and light came in. I kept my eye mask on to shut off from the light and stay in my zone, in my body.

 

Serban was kindly checking on me through the night and into the morning. Eventually he called the midwives. Shar came around 7 or 8am.

The moment of truth. I hoped I had advanced a bit. Because I did not want to go to the hospital. I did not want the noises, smells and artificial light of the hospital. I did not want all the strangers interfering. I also had a few friends doing a first time home birth after me. I wanted to be a good story for them. I was determined.

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.

Little did I know I still had a lot to go.  It was 8am and she was born at 5:10pm.

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.”

Eventually Shar proposed an enema. But nothing came out. She felt my bladder which was full and offered to empty it via a catheter in my eurethra. That sounded painful. She assured me it wasn’t. It could help move the baby down. So we did it. It was not that painful. But it didn’t work. She was too low. The entire process her head was right up against the cervix. She was the lowest she could be. They told me eventually I would feel some natural push that would feel good. Like the baby working its way down once the cervix was open. But for me she was so low that the entire time I was opening the cervix and working her down at the same time. I never felt the releasing push they all talk about.  I was moving from the bath to the birth stool, to the toilet, to standing up, then on the bed and back to the bath….Still slowly opening “9cm…” ….”You are 9.5”… “You are 10 but there is still a little lip left thats in the way”… “Are you kidding me!???”

 

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.

I thought she must have been 1/2 way out. But when I was saying that I could tell the people watching were not seeing anything. How could this be? And then I really felt it. Her head stretching me. It was intense. But I remembered an advice I got; to take my time as the head was coming out. So I did. Shar was monitoring the baby through each phase and all throughout she had a great heart beat, so we could take our time. Every contraction I tried to push and stretch a bit more. So I did push myself. But never forcing too much. As a result I did not tear. Shar told me to reach out and feel the head coming out. I did. It was the softest thing ever. My water had not been broken. So she was still in the sack. Touching her head in the sack was so soft and slimy, like a little octopus. I pushed for a few contractions and then the head was out. One more tiny contraction and her body came out effortlessly. The sack and water broke as her feet came out. She was born. Shar caught her and immediately passed her to me through between my legs. Instinctively I grabbed her. And I layed on the bed in front of me. All the pain went away. As if nothing ever happened. Only my legs hurt because I did not work out during the pregnancy and 28 hours of pushing on them made them weak and shaky. But that is all.

 

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.

Zélie was born 6.2 pounds, 19 inches, healthy and adorable. In the end, the birth did not go as I expected. It was longer than I ever thought it would be. The contractions did not feel like waves at all. They did not increase in frequency the way they tell you they would. I did not push the baby down. My water didn’t break…. Each birth is unique and nothing can fully prepare you for your specific birth experience. You just find your way as you go through it.I was very scared of the pain beforehand. But in the moment, I never felt like I couldn’t do it. The pain was not one that made me scared for my life or that felt like it was tearing me apart. It was very intense. But nothing I couldn’t get over. There was only one way out and I was ready to do anything to get through. This experience taught me a lot of lessons that I hope I remember my whole life. I learned that being in the moment made it go faster. Being in the eternity of the moment is liberating. I learned that I am bigger than any pain I have ever felt. And as long as I have the will to be the victor and not the victim, I can always be bigger and stronger than my obstacle.

 

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.

In the end, my journey taught me to be the support I need for myself. To be the mother I need for myself. I am a mother now.
Bérénice.

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