It has taken me a long time to finish typing up Alaina’s birth story. I wrote it in my journal at 3 days postpartum and the following is almost verbatim. I’ve gone back and forth about what to include and decided to just include everything, as originally written. I feel critical of the story somehow, like it is “choppy.” I used interestingly short, jumpy sentences and while part of me want to smooth it out, another part of me feels like it is more authentic in this format. I also feel like I “should” be posting it on a more significant date—i.e. her six month birthday, or something. But, it is finished now, so I feel like sharing now! Additionally, I thought about taking the self-analysis section about the use of a hypnosis for birth program out of the story, but, indeed, this was the FIRST thing I wrote in my journal, so it seems like it “deserves” to be included as well. It obviously was one of the most important details for me to write about. However, for the purposes of clarity, I moved it to the end of the story in this version. Likewise, I thought about making the section about my newborn- love into a separate post, but because those feelings are so intimately entwined with her birth and because, in my journal, that is exactly the chronology I used—first hypnosis criticism, second birth chronology, third baby love–it feels like it all belongs together in one story. It is funny how that first story has such value to me and that it feels almost wrong to edit, change, or add anything to it. It feels most honest this way.
I had a restless, up and down night, getting up at 3:00 a.m. and even checked in with my online class. Mark got up with me and we talked and speculated. Waves were four minutes apart and then kind of dissipated unenthusiastically away. He went back to bed at 4:00 and I listened to Hypnobabies. At 6:00, I was feeling trapped lying down and got up. Mark got up then too and worked in the kitchen on the dishes and things like that, while I walked around and leaned on the half wall during contractions (a lot. It was the perfect height). Sitting down in a chair caused horribleness, leaning forward on the ½ wall was good. Called Mom and told her to be on standby and to notify my blessingway crew. Also, called Summer (doula/friend) to be on alert. Felt serious, but not totally. Also was having back involvement which each wave. I felt like I would have a real contraction and then a closely following, but milder, back-only contraction (no tightness in uterus really during these, but definitely a wave-like progression and then ease of sensation).
I was very quiet during most waves until the end. I think because I was doing the Hypnobabies and was concentrating on that. Then, I would talk and analyze and be very normal in between. This pattern seemed to lead to a decreased perception of seriousness from others of my need for attention—Mark washed dishes, went outside to take care of chickens, work on fire, feed cats and so forth. The boys woke up at 7:00 a.m. and as soon as they came out and started talking to me (Mark was outside), I knew they needed to go elsewhere. We called my mom at 7:30ish and she came to get them. I did not want to feel watched or observed at all, so asked her to wait to come back.
I kept waiting for the “action” to increase and feeling distressed that it was taking such a “long” time. I suggested to the baby that she come out by 10:00. I continued to stand in the kitchen and lean on the ½ wall, sometimes the table or the bathroom counter. Dismayed to see no blood/mucous, nothing indicating any “progress.” Significant feelings of pressure and pain in lower back continued and at the time felt normal to me, but looking back seems like an extra dose of back involvement. In another intensity-increasing experience, the baby moved during contractions for the entire labor until the contraction before I pushed her out. She moved, wiggled and pushed out with her bottom and body during each contraction, which really added a new layer of intensity that was difficult. I was, however, glad she was moving because then I knew she was okay, without doing any heart checks.
I went into the living room, very tired from bad sleep during the night. We set up the birth ball in the living room so I could sit on it and drape over pillows piled onto the couch. I spent a long time like this. Mark sat close and would lightly and perfectly stroke my back. Continued to use Hypnobabies—finger-drop, peace and release, with most waves.
Mark fixed me chlorophyll to drink and I barfed it up immediately and horribly. Called Mom to come back and 9:00 or so, at which point I finally had a little blood in my underwear. Kept up my ball by the couch routine and moved into humming with each wave. Also did some contractions on the floor leaning over the ball. Also good.
On the ball, I began to feel some rectal pressure with each wave. However, I felt like the waves were erratic still, with some very long and intense and then smaller ones. Hums began to become oooohs and aaaaahs and I began to feel like there was a bit of an umph at the end of the oooooh. Went back to the bathroom and there was quite a bit more blood (plus mucous string) and I started to fret about placental abruptions and so forth. Left the bathroom analyzing how much blood is too much blood and began to critique myself for being too “in my head” and analytical and not letting my “monkey do it.” Said I still didn’t feel like I was in “birth brain” and wondered if that meant I still had a long time to go. Started to feel concerned that I was still early on. This is a common feature of all of my births and is how the self-doubt signpost manifests for me. Rather than thinking I can’t do it, I start thinking I’m two centimeters dilated.
I almost immediately returned to the bathroom feeling like I needed to poop. Serious contractions on toilet produced more pressure with associated umphs at the end. At some point in the bathroom, I said, “I think this is pushing.” I was feeling desperate for my water to break. It felt like it was in the way and holding things up. I reached my hand down and thought I felt squooshy sac-ish feeling, but Mom and Mark looked and could not see anything. And, it still didn’t break. Mom mentioned that I should probably go to my birth nest in order to avoid having the baby on the toilet. My birth nest was a futon stack near the bathroom door. I got down on hands and knees after feeling like I might not make it all the way to the futons. Felt like I wanted to kneel on hard floor before reaching the nest.
Suddenly became obsessed with checking her heartbeat. I knew you’re supposed to do so during pushing and I had stopped feeling her moving painfully with each contraction. I couldn’t find her heartbeat and started to feel a little panicky about that as well as really uncomfortable and then threw the Doppler to the side saying, “forget it!” because big pushing was coming. I was down on hands and knees and then moved partially up on one hand in order to put my other hand down to feel what was happening. Could feel squishiness and water finally broke (not much, just a small trickle before her head). I could feel her head with my fingers and began to feel familiar sensation of front-burning. I said, “stretchy, stretchy, stretchy, stretchy,” the phone rang, her head pushed and pushed itself down as I continued to support myself with my hand and I moved up onto my knees, with them spread apart so I was almost sitting on my heels and her whole body and a whole bunch of fluid blooshed out into my hands. She was pink and warm and slippery and crying instantly—quite a lot of crying, actually. I said, “you’re alive, you’re alive! I did it! There’s nothing wrong with me!” and I kissed her and cried and laughed and was amazed. I felt an intense feeling of relief. Of survival. I didn’t realize until some moments later than both Mark and Mom missed the actual moment of her birth. Mark because he was coming around from behind me to the front of me when I moved up to kneeling. My mom because she went to stop the phone from ringing. I had felt like the pushing went on for a “long” time, but Mark said that from hands and knees to kneeling with baby in my hands was about 12 seconds. I don’t know. Inner experience is different than outer observation. What I do know is that the moment of catching my own daughter in my hands and bringing her warm, fresh body up into my arms was the most powerful and potent moment of my life.
I was covered in blood again. Caked in my fingernails and toenails and on the bottoms of my feet again. And, I did tear again, same places.
I feel the moment of her birth was an authentic “fetal ejection reflex” including the forward movement of my hips. The immediate postpartum went exactly as I had planned. Summer arrived approximately 20 minutes after Alaina was born. She brought me snacks, wiped blood off of me, and served me a tiny bit of placenta (which I swallowed with no problem!). My midwife arrived approximately 40 minutes post-birth and assessed blood loss and helped with placenta. She said I lost about 3 cups of blood, but I think all of the fluid that came out with the baby, plus the blood from the tears, may have bumped the estimate up too high. I did not feel weak or tired like I’d lost too much blood, I felt energetic and really good, actually. I didn’t get faint in the bathroom either and my color stayed good throughout. “Don’t look down” (while using the bathroom) is an excellent plan for me!
My post-birth feelings were different this time. I feel more baby-centered in my feelings about it rather than self-empowerment centered. I also feel more critical in my own self assessment this time—like I didn’t “perform” well or handle myself well. I hypothesize that this may be related to using a hypnosis for birth program, because I didn’t feel “calm and comfortable” on the inside. On the outside I think I looked it, but my internal experience involved more “should” than I like. The hypnosis philosophy wasn’t really a match with my own lived experience of birth. Birth isn’t calm, quiet, and comfortable and I don’t actually think it should be or that I want it to be. However, I was trying to make it so and thus not using some of my own internal resources. I felt more mind/body disconnect than I have before also, perhaps because I was trying to use a mind (“control”) based method on such an embodied process. Anyway, it was good for relaxing during pregnancy, personally not so good for behaving instinctually in labor. I did use it though and technically I guess it “worked” because Mom and Mark couldn’t read where I was in birthing and though I was very calm. It didn’t feel calm inside though, it felt HARD. I also was very stuck—almost in a competitive-feeling way—on thinking it was going to be fast and feeling stressed/concerned that it wasn’t.
I also want to include this segment from my journal, written when she was three days old:
She is so wonderful and amazing and beautiful and perfect and I just want to etch these days into my mind forever and never forget a single, precious, beautiful, irreplaceable moment. I want to write everything down to try to preserve each second of these first few days with baby Alaina—my treasure, my BABY! The one I hoped for and feared for and worked SO HARD to bring to this world (in pregnancy more so than in birth). I can’t really though—I am here, now. Living this, feeling this, knowing this. The newborn haze is my reality in these moments, but it will pass away and the best thing to do is to fully live it. To feel it and to be here—without struggling to preserve it all. It is here in my heart and soul and preserved in the eddies and ripples of time. The unfolding, continuous ribbon of life and experiences. I have a weird, petrified feeling of forgetting—i.e. when I’m 89 will I still remember how this FELT?!
What do I want to remember?
- The scrunchy feel of a newborn’s body.
- The little mewing squeaks and sighs
- How she is comforted by my voice and turns to me with a smacky, nursie face…
- The soft, soft skin
- The soft, soft hair
- The fuzzy ears and arms
- The little legs that pull up into reflexive, fetal position.
- The utter, utter, MARVEL that I grew her and that she’s here. That she came from me. That sense of magic and wonder and disbelief when I look over and see her lying next to me—how did YOU get here?!
- The miraculous transition from belly to baby. From pregnant woman to motherbaby unit? How does it happen? It is indescribably awesome.
- The sleeping profile
- The scrunchy face
- The “wheeling” half coordinated movements of arms and legs—sort of “swimming” in air.
- The peace of snuggling her against my chest and neck.
- The tiny, skinny feet.
- Putting my hand on her back and feeling her breathe, just like in utero
I was still scared she was going to die until the moment I held her.