All of my mama's births deserve a written account, and this is the first time I'll actually write publicly about one. Most births are emotional, yet this one particularly hit my heart, even while labor was moving. It was my first VBAC client who was actually "allowed" to go into labor. Last Sunday she called me with news that her water had broken at 230am. I listened and realized she hadn't felt labor actually begin so I talked her back to sleep and checked in every few hours. By 9am she was feeling quite nervous and I reminded her of the option of homeopathy to ignite contractions. She checked in with herself and began treatment immediately.
When I arrived to her home at noon to see what was going on, I found her at the table chatting with her sister, timing contractions. I asked if we could go to her bedroom alone and do some massage. She lay down and I began to use pressure points and took her through some deep relaxing breaths to get her focused and calm. Her contractions got regular immediately and were 3-6min apart, 60sec in length for a couple hrs while we spent time there. Her husband joined us occasionally, brought her some chamomile tea, and was in awe of the peace she was in, compared to the first labor where they rushed to the hospital with the first early irregular contraction patterns.
This mama let go with each contraction with her tears, sounds and breath. I reminded her that that was so good, to keep letting go, to continue tapping into her baby and this unique labor. I wasn't sure if stuff was coming up from the past labor or if she was nervous about this one or what. All I knew was that I was her friend, sitting beside her and helping her body open and her labor to move. It was beautiful. It felt good to be there after phone support all night.
We stayed at home laboring until we decided to go the hospital at 3pm. She started touching her lower pelvic area during contractions which made me think the baby could be close; it was her second child and in birth #1 she did labor to 9cm. So we left and all were comfortable with that.
We arrived and parked and she decided she wanted to labor outside for a while, so it was until 5pm that we labored in the sunshine outside Cornell's hospital doors. Her water seriously broke on her exit from the car so it was hard for me to believe her water had broken the night before too! Contractions were already 2-3 min apart and 60-90sec in length while we were laboring outside. She was so strong and willing. She danced. She swayed. We ate lentil soup. She loved being out there and free.
When we arrived upstairs to triage she was surprised to be checked at 2cm. She was feeling so much pelvic pressure and just didn't think it could be right. I've found that telling women where they are cervix-wise or anything numerically-speaking just doesn't work for them most of the time. It puts them in a rut. It takes them out of their center. It makes them believe someone else knows more about their labor than they do. It takes their power away.
It took a bit for her to get over the news and finally she remembered that her real focus was the work ahead of her. She asked for what she wanted: she got her telemetry room and was able to walk around and labor on her feet. Our nurse all night and into the morning was a graduating midwife from SUNY Downstate. All was well. When residents came in who made her feel uncomfortable she simply told them to leave.
She labored for a long while until 1am with very intense contractions, with her husband's love, my supportive words, massage, and all of our affirmations. We thought her baby might be coming. The midwife even brought in the delivery tool cart. At midnight though, she was checked at 3cm and then decided on an epidural. She needed to sleep; she needed to let go. By 8am, she was checked at 4cm, and feeling a lot of pain still. With top off of medication after top off and hitting her epidural button 3x an hour, she still was in pain. I've never seen a woman in that much pain. It was confusing. I've been with women who get relief from epidurals, not the opposite. The anesthesiologists came in to help but the pressure of the baby was just too much. I wasn't sure what was going on. Moments like these make me want to call Ina May.
When checked at 4/5cm still at 11am, the new doctor on the floor really wanted to go ahead with a cesarean birth. The baby's heart rate was dipping quite a bit, and even though it may look normal to some, it wasn't looking good to the doctor who was taking in mind that she had been in labor for already 24hrs with much regularity. With almost 4hrs of no cervical change, he didn't want the baby to go through another whole day of distress. My client had a really hard time with that proposal though, even though she was having a hard time herself going forward with the labor because of her discomfort.
It was so tricky for her to accept his proposal after a cesarean birth 3 years before where she blames drugs completely for her labor stalling and causing fetal distress. During this whole labor, every time they administered a drug she'd ask if it would affect her labor. The doctors gently told her it wouldn't but she knew so deep down what she believed to be true: the opposite. She knew though that during this labor the drugs were her ally because of this intense discomfort. And so she felt so conflicted with the choice to use them and the belief that using them would "cause" a cesarean birth. Yet even so, I know her feelings before entering the OR spoke as: "I did it, I tried, yes, I've been through so much, something is going on here and I don't know what but I'm going to follow my gut, even though I didn't want this".
I don't know the reasons for everything, but I do know she went through a labor like never before, and that is what she wanted. She was amazing, she was determined, she was so strong. She has something to look back on to make her proud, to remind her of her strength and beauty. When she looked at me before heading into the OR, and said directly to me, "Erica, I could not have done this without you. I would not have been able to do this without you, thank you for all you have done, thank you for everything, ", that just means too much to me. It put me into tears right in front of her own. Moments like that open and transform, all of the people involved at the birth.
Blessings onto this beautiful mama. Blessings onto this child. Blessings onto this family. Blessings onto that which moves us and guides us right. Blessings onto that which we don't understand.
Closing ceremony at last year's conference.
I recently blogged about my experience attending Naoli Vinaver’s midwifery training in Mexico. What a life-changing experience it was for me! It has truly motivated me to seek out even more midwifery training experiences, and I am pleased to announce that from the 19th to the 23rd of October I will be in Bad Wildbad, Germany attending a special Midwifery Today conference titled “Preserving Our Traditions, Improving Our Skills.”
I have a feeling this is going to be a very special experience. Several amazing and inspirational leaders from the birth community will be there as presenters. To name just a few:
I look forward to soaking in the brilliant wisdom of these amazing teachers and deepening my knowledge of pregnancy, labor, birth and beyond. What a blessing it will be to my doula practice and my clients!
Want to join me in Germany? Act now! There is an early bird discounted special from now until June 7th!
Erica is a Childbirth Doula in NYC. Her present focus is on the postpartum period.