Twenty-four hours after the labor, every muscle in my body ached, I had the desire to slip into a drool-worthy sleep, I craved a greasy slice of pizza, and I was overwhelmed by the entry of new life — and I hadn’t even been the one who gave birth.
I am a birth doula, meaning I provide non-medical support to women moving through the journey of childbirth. I’m trained in the art of how to find pain-relieving pressure points, massage (so much massage), the essence of essential oils, utilizing hypnosis to help the hard working mama go within, and pretty much every other type of emotional and spiritual support a woman might need during birth. And oh, I almost forgot — I’m also highly trained in the fine art of picking up takeout for the hungry parents.
During this particular birth, the mother was rocked by back spasms the entirety of every “surge” (a more gentle term for “contraction”), and the only relief came from the deep pressure I would apply to her lower back. I couldn’t feel my hands by the time her baby emerged — but I didn’t care.
The superwoman who is the heroine of this tale birthed for 22 hours at home before I met her and her husband at the hospital. She had an iron clad resolve to have a natural labor, in the absence of any medical emergencies. You could see it in her face — no one had made her birthing decisions for her. She had opened her heart to the voice of her intuition and it told her that the right path, for her, was an intervention-free birth, and by golly she was going to have it.
She was, and is, a total badass.
Because she was in active labor for so long before making the trip to the hospital, I was certain I would be home for my son’s nap time. I’m now pointing and laughing at the naiveté of my past self.
I arrived at the hospital at 7 AM and prepared to support the mother through the final graceful moves of her birthing dance. My hands were full of energy as I kneaded her through each surge, her head cradled in her husband’s arms. She moaned through the powerful quakes rumbling through her body but did not once request medication.
My attention was locked on the monitor tracking her “off the charts” contractions. A few more and she’d be ready to breathe her baby down, we were sure of it. But we were wrong.
As each hour crawled by, and her cervix inched (or “centimetered”) open, we all made silent predictions for when the baby would come.
“No later than 9 PM, I’m sure if it.”
“No later than 10 PM, I’m sure of it … ”
All we really knew was that we knew nothing; the birthing body does what it wants and could care less about our predictions (or need for sleep).
After the third time we had told the mother “any time now,” she told us to shut it — and I don’t blame her. Every time we filled her with hope that she was “so close,” we pulled her out of the beautifully timeless world she had created in her mind.
So we stopped talking.
At 9 PM, she was fully dilated and ready to start breathing her baby down, which turned into pushing. She pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed.
“Any time now.”
“Don’t say that!”
By 1 AM my sleep-deprived mind convinced me that the baby wouldn’t actually come out. There would be no C-section, we would just all go home, get some rest, and try again another day.
But this mom was getting her baby out.
As she rolled into her fifth hour of pushing, the doctor asked her when the last time she had gone to the bathroom was. The answer was about 15 hours ago.
Two liters of urine were blocking baby’s descent. One catheter, two pairs of hands, and three mighty feminine howls later, one perfect baby was born. His mother was tiny, he was huge, and did I mention that she is a badass?
I was reminded that day that birth is not made to fit into a box. There are no parameters, no predictions, and no limit to the magic that is created in the emergence of new life.
We must all get out of the way of the birthing body and baby, trusting that they’re so much wiser than we could ever hope to be.
The unique journey each woman needs to navigate to cradle her baby is perfect, and should be freed from our opinions, judgments, and efforts to sculpt the experience.
That birth changed me, almost more than my own. I gained a deep knowing of the barriers the mind, body, and spirit of a human being can bust through when the motivating force is one of love.