Let me start by saying how fantastic my pregnancy was. I never got sick and was able to stay very active up until the very end. I LOVED being pregnant. The whole pregnancy I thought and assumed I would go past my estimated due date of June 9th, 2012. In my 37th week, I had a dream, on a Thursday night, that the baby had dropped (the term used for when the baby starts to move down into the pelvis). The next day at my mom’s yoga class several people commented on how the baby looked so much lower and then when my mom and I went swimming after yoga she also said that I had dropped. It seemed my dream was also a reality. That got me thinking, that the baby could just as easily come early as come late…
That weekend, my mom helped me get everything organized. We went through all the gifts from the showers, washed, folded, cleaned the room, etc. If it had not been for my mom it would have never gotten done! The only thing left to do was to buy drawers for the closet to put all the baby stuff in. That whole 37th week I had very, very mild period cramps on and off but I was still feeling great. It was my last week teaching and I had a long list of things to do for my remaining free weeks. At exactly 38 weeks (that Saturday) I taught my last class and went to the Container Store to buy the drawers for the baby’s closet, installed them and put all the clothes in. We were ready!
On Tuesday, May 29th, I woke up with contractions with mild period cramps during them. Before, I had been having contractions but with no sensations. They were around 10 minutes apart but we were not really keeping track since I didn’t really think anything of them. We went on with our normal day. We went to lunch then headed up to our appointment with the midwife, Yelena. When I told her about the contractions she very casually said “okay, try and rest and take a warm bath when you get home.” On the way home we stopped at Target to get the rest of the birth supplies. We almost didn’t stop since I wanted to get home and rest but Steve looked at me like I was crazy and insisted we stop on the way home (good thing). The contractions were still coming, a little closer together now and maybe a bit more intense, but totally bearable. We got home and I got in the bath for a while, the contractions still there. Our tub is not very comfortable so I got out after a bit and tried to put together the hamper we got at Target. I kind of organized some thing and then decided I wanted to go to the spa at my parents’ house. So I decided I might as well bring all the birth supplies with me…just in case. I packed everything up and we headed over.
I was in the spa from about 4-6pm. It felt great in the warm water but the contractions were still there, getting closer together but still very bearable. I called Yelena and updated her. She said she wanted me to get some rest and to check back in before 10pm. I got out of the spa and went into the bedroom to rest. By this time Steve and my dad had come home and they were cooking up a yummy dinner but I was not that hungry. I rested in my room from 6-8ish. It got to the point that I had to talk myself through each contraction. I would say out loud things like “this sensation is my uterus giving my baby a big hug to prepare him for breathing,” or “I am opening up like a beautiful flower (and I would stare at the roses just outside my window) so I can meet my baby.” Luckily, I was able to rest and even sleep between the contractions. Around 8pm, I got up to go to the bathroom and called Steve over to time the contractions I think they were about 4 minutes apart at this point. I was shaking, like something powerful was moving through me that I had no control over. I moved from the toilet to the bed back and forth for a while just feeling everything. Steve came in at one point and asked for the list of phone numbers to send the text message out. I was on the toilet and I looked up at him and told him no, no, no, no…. we are not sure that this is even it. A minute or two later my water broke, in the toilet(!), and I looked up at Steve and said, “okay, you can send the texts.” I also told him to call Yelena. I think he called her at about 9pm and she said that if I wanted I could get in the tub and that she and Hope, the other midwife, were on their way.
I went upstairs to the jacuzzi tub and got in the water. I went back and forth from the tub to the toilet (it just felt good to be sitting on the toilet) for about an hour. I was getting to the point where my body felt like pushing and I was anxious for the midwives to get there. During the contractions I had Steve say a mantra over and over and over and over. I remember having him say “your body is opening” and “down.” Hope arrived first, at around 10pm. She checked me and said I was complete and I could push if I felt like it. Yelena arrived around 11pm. It got to the point that I did not feel good in the water pushing; I wanted to be on land, grounded. They got the birthing stool out and I went back and forth from the stool, then to the bed on all fours, to a child’s pose-like position. I would say that from about 10-11:30ish was the hardest part. I felt an incredible pressure in my hip flexors, like a really intense muscle cramp. Out of everything I felt during the labor and birth, this was the only thing that I might consider painful. It was intense, but even with the intensity, I was able to work with it. I was able to get into a rhythm and just be with the rushes. I was going in and in. I hardly ever looked up, I only made eye contact several times through the whole thing. At one point (and I have no idea when it was but I would guess it was around 12am), Yelena asked me, “Jessica are you ready for your baby? It is coming early and the whole pregnancy you thought it would come late. Are you ready to meet your baby?” I had to say YES!
[Side Note: Last March I went on a yoga retreat where the theme was "Shanta Bhavana" and how to bring peace into our everyday life. The first of the five steps to peace is to affirm, to say YES to every experience. I have been trying to mindfully practice this for the past year and it has done wonders for me.]
So I said YES. Out loud again I started to talk myself through it: I was ready to be a mother, I was ready to meet my baby and to hold my baby, I was ready for this transformation, this is what I had been waiting for, this moment of connection. My mom said that was the turning point. Instead of just being the vessel of the voyage I was now the force behind it as well. I went from the birthing stool for each contraction to push, then I would get up (with Steve’s help, of course) and walk around between the contractions, moving my hips in circles and back and forth. Then I would get back on the stool and push. Yelena reminded me that I did not want to push too fast to prevent tearing. There was a mirror on the floor so I could see my baby coming down and the progress I was making. It wasamazing to see. With every round I could feel the baby come down. I thought of a poem that I read every day during the final weeks of the pregnancy, and it kept me going. (I’ve included the poem at the end of my birth story.)
While on the birthing stool, I heard Luna (our dog) outside the door give a little whimper, and I am not sure why but that really helped me – maybe helped me to connect to the animal in me, and with a few more pushes, he was born. Yelena said, “Catch your baby,” and before I could get my hands down there, he was out! I brought him right up to my heart and he let out a big roar. It was 12:45am.
We went over to the bed and Steve and I connected with our little baby…in total amazement and awe. There was so much love in the room. So magical. A minute or two went by and I said, what is it? Steve looked and said it was a boy! Leonardo was here.
The midwives went about their business and cleaned everything up. They checked me for any tearing and I had nothing! I was so glad to hear that. The placenta came about 10-15 minutes later with an easy contraction. Yelena made some cool prints with it (the placenta). Leonardo latched on right away and ate for about an hour. We just watched. So happy. Yelena and Hope had gone into another room to do some paperwork. After they came back they finished cleaning him up and I got in the shower while Steve held Leo. Then, Yelena did the newborn check up. Leo weighed 6lbs 6oz. and was 19inches tall and got a 10/10 APGAR score. My dad was up and we were all celebrating and taking pictures. The midwives left and we got to sleep around 3:45am.
I couldn’t be happier with the way everything went. The whole experience was so easy. I still can’t get over it. Steve feels the same way, he was expecting so much more “drama,” for lack of a better word. We were so well prepared and I can’t imagine doing it any other way.
The Passage, By Marcie Macari
The earth shook. The women gathered.
The chanting of The Women Of a Thousand Generations began, their hands intertwined.
I breathe low, moaning deep through my body to touch the depth of sound they generate.
And for a moment I am with them.
“We’re here-with you, you are one of us-you can do it!”
One of them
The coals glow-mocking my strength
Embers flick their tongues tormenting my courage.
I step onto the coals-
The Women Of a Thousand Generations push closer to the embers- their faces glowing from the coals.
I keep my eyes on them, focusing on THEIR ability to push through the pain, to keep walking in spite of their fear- remembering that they made it to the other side.
I find MY courage and step again.
I feel the embers, and wince.
The Women start beating a drum.
I find their rhythm in my abdomen, and slowly move forward:
One step – look at the face.
Second step – focus on the eyes.
I see the African dancers, rehearsing their steps as I walk my last few.
I see the circle being set-the fire at the center, the food and festivities.
This will be the stage for my welcoming into this elite group – this Women Of a Thousand Generations.
My heart swells.
I am close to the end now, and my body starts to shake-
Spirit stronger than flesh.
I want to give up-to step on the cool grass
And off these coals.
I look for the faces, and my eyes meet theirs.
One of them smiles.
She who is With Woman, reaches out her hand
Her face is the clearest, eyes at my level.
“Listen to your body and do what it tells you” She says-no trace of concern.
The chanting changes: “Listen to your bo-dy”
In rhythm, hands are again joined, like an infinite chain.
I realize just how many have gone this way before me.
The one who smiled places her hand on the shoulder
of the One who is With Woman – with me, and I breathe,
stretching out my hand to grasp the outstretched.
I am about to cross over -
Silence comes over the Universe.
I near the end -
my body aches,
my mind is empty of everything but that last step.
Cool grass. On my toes, cooling my feet-
my arms reach out to claim my prize -
“Reach down and take your baby.”
I hold him to me tightly, and proudly take my place in the chain.
I am now a Woman Of a Thousand Generations.
The celebration begins.