I had expected her to come close to or after her due date of December 26.
I had work left to do: I had clients to see, money to earn and save, more household order to create, baby clothes, diapers and blankets to find and clean, important discussions to have, fears to express and destroy, sleep to catch up with, big issues to resolve.
I had two nights of just a twinge more than Braxton Hicks, a few hours of interrupted sleep. I was scheduled to work through the 23rd and should have planned to stop sooner, but I had patients’ needs to consider, and income to earn. I did not want to be waiting, watching my belly, waiting, waiting, and waiting.
I worked Thursday the 16th; thankfully it was a short day. I was contracting off and on, able to work but not always able talk through the contractions. Maybe I had just been too busy and not drinking enough water or eating enough protein. (Yes, I strive to do what I advise, and very humanly fall short.)
So after consulting with my midwife, Cathy Weston, I ate a good dinner and drank lots of water. I went home and directed my household to complete undone nesting in order to create the birth-space I needed. I took a bath to stop the contractions or relax into them; whichever needed to happen.
They let up a bit. We got the children to sleep. I rested and slept, awoke every twenty minutes with achy moany contractions. I got up and discovered that I had lost my mucus plug. Clear signs baby was coming sooner rather than later.
I filled the bath tub. I called Cathy, texted, and then called some of my birth support team. I still wasn’t completely convinced I was in labor and felt a bit guilty waking people in the middle of the night; especially if it wasn’t really happening…
But it was. While in the tub, I moaned through my surges and swayed my hips in a figure eight or spiral and invited my body to open. The surges rolled in, irregularly and intensely. I asked my friend Johanna to get the birth tub set up while I relaxed in the bath tub a bit more. The surges flowed on, I moaned and swayed, then got out to help facilitate the birth tub filling. I had never given birth on dry land and preferred the heavy labor in the water.
The tub was filling and too hot for me to get into. Cathy had arrived, she arranged her supplies strategically, checked the water, and checked my blood pressure.
I labored in the kitchen bracing myself between our island and counter, moaning, swaying, opening… praying. I labored draped over the couch holding my husband’s hand or chatting between contractions. I drank labour aid, I pottied as needed, I wanted the birth tub to be full I wanted the warmth, the buoyancy and comfort…the midwife’s epidural was calling to me… we filled it more it was at safe temperature. I immersed myself and surrendered to the surges that kept coming irregularly with immensity. As surges rolled in, my throat opened, a birth song bellowed out my hips swayed, my body opened and my baby continued her journey out.
I stuck in a few spirit calming needles, in myself and some of my birth team. Daniella used the OHM forks to soothe us and move us through the intensity and beauty of this time.
In my previous births, my water would break right before I began to push. Pushing was a primal urge that embraced my core as I provided passage for my baby out. This time was no different, after a longer lull in surges…I knew my water would break with the upcoming surge. I became a freight train, my horn rang out, my water broke, I pushed and the baby’s head soared down to my opening. I felt her head, a lot of it, I felt the burn that often summoned Johnny Cash and chugged through the end of the freight train surge.
Havivah woke with my sounds, just in time to assist Cathy with perineum support and new baby head guiding. Anthony held my hand; we declared that we can raise our family with the love and compassion that we aspire. We have room in our life for this new baby. We will do the work we need to be a strong family and a joyful couple.
The next surge was an avalanche, I roared and pushed and her head completely emerged with no time to sing a Burning Ring of Fire and no need. Her head was almost completely out. I guided my flesh around her head, to smooth out the last of our journey. In my third push, her head was fully delivered. With the next push, she rushed out into the water; I reached down to her and saw her hands, her head, her raven hair and blue green eyes. I kept her in the water for a bit to marvel at her beauty before her first breath.
Out of the water, her sweet pink tongue tasted her first breath. I held her in my arms and drank her in and fell in love again.
After the Birth
So often we mothers focus on the birth as being the feat to overcome. Forgetting that the minutes, hours, days, and weeks following birth are extreme.
There she was in my arms at 3:33 Friday morning, December 17th, 2010, our Shulamit Devorah, whom we had waited for so long.
Solomon woke up at some point and couldn’t take his eyes off his newly birthed sister. She gazed at me; she turned her head toward her dad and her siblings’ voices. She opened her mouth and nestled me, a baby bird needing to feed.
Many babies are ready to feed minutes after birth. Early feeding helps minimize uterine bleeding, can facilitate delivery of the placenta, and soothe and nourish the newly born. I put Miss Shulamit to my breast, her cord was short (12 inches) and still attached to the placenta and still attached to me. Her position on my nipple was not ideal and it hurt…but I was so euphoric and in love I let her plug through. (I would pay for this later with a very sore cracked nipple.)
The placenta finally released and I delivered it: Achy and oogy.
The cord no longer pulsating, Cathy clamped it and Havivah helped cut it.
We moved from the birth tub to the bath tub. Cathy had filled the tub with some soothing herbs. I rested in the tub for a bit while Anthony and Havivah and Solomon held Shulamit and bonded with her. When she came to me Cathy told me to support her by her jaw and let her float and unwind in the tub. She stretched out and moved and swayed. I could see the movements I had felt for months; they made so much more sense to see them on the outside. We looked at each other in awe.
From the tub there were more feedings, more sibling cuddling and finally sleep.
The first waking after birthing is surreal. What had been one are two. There is a baby bobbing on my chest looking for food. I feed her, it is tender: Her tiny mouth does not quite match my anatomy. Though I can’t see it, I trust she is getting colostrum and keep alert for her first eliminations.
We feed when she is awake or cueing in her sleep. When it hurts through the suckling, I readjust her to minimize nipple trauma. That first feeding injured my most challenging side.
They say that every subsequent birth the after pains are worse. I vaguely remembered them with my three previous births. I think we are primed to forget them.
These after pains roar in with a vengeance. They are worse than the labor pains and I cannot stay in the water with them. They come on strongest with nursing and the nipple pain at initiation is toe curling, then the after pains surge in. I must stay in the moment and get through it. I know it won’t last forever. It may be days before this passes, so I get through each feeding, each after pain one at a time.
Cathy tells me to take one teaspoon of Calcium and Magnesium every two hours. Maybe it helps. The she brings me a Black Haw and Cramp Bark tincture to take every 5 minutes if needed. I take it before and during nursing and it helps some. I also take Motherwort tincture to help with the emotional challenges. I also take Rescue Remedy in my water and sprinkle it on my kids and husband.
After a day and a half of after pains, that continue to make me moan to get through, I remembered to use my OHM forks. Oh, bliss. The forks directly over my uterus mellowed the roar to a hum. I would also use them on other points and I was able to move through after pains with more grace and less distress. I also began taking a Postpartum Chinese formula to help with the after pains and rebuild my Qi and Blood. The heated health stone in a moxa-infused pouch helps comfort my belly and back, and helps rebuild my strength.
After three or four days the after pains are done. The nipples are healing.
Baby is nursing beautifully every 2 hours or so, with some help. The initial nipple damage from her first nursing is still healing and historically it has been my hardest breast to feed on due to the flatness of the nipple.
Alecia Burgett, a local independent IBCLC, referred me to biologicalnurturing.com. Following the recommendations of reclining and nursing and resting made a world of difference. Also trusting that as my baby grows as long as I teach her how to latch on properly with a wide open mouth and lips flanged out we will get by and thrive. It takes at least six weeks to really get breastfeeding established and then it becomes second nature.
I am in baby bliss: Living in baby time. The demands of work and schedules are merely a whisper. I will stay here as long as I can.
Then I will create the balance of family and work.
It is hard, but it is worth it.
Knowledge, support and self care allow us to weather these storms and soar.
We are blessed and we keep breathing.