"I am a runner, and one of the things that gets me to go that extra mile, even when I feel like giving up, is just the reminder that I am strong!"
In one of our prenatals, we were talking about words that gave you confidence and helped you, affirmations that you would like to hear during your birthing time. This was one of your comments. I jotted it down... "You are strong!"... and we moved on. You wanted me to talk you out of medication if you changed your mind... and we moved on. You wanted Terrance to be your moral compass and me to be your massage therapist... and we moved on.
We planned, we dotted our i's and crossed our t's, but anyone who has seen birth can tell you, birth has a way of reminding us that we are not always in charge...
Fast forward 3 weeks. You called me at 11pm to let me know that you had been consistently feeling cramping on and off, every 12 minutes, for the last two hours. We talked a little, I encouraged you to follow your normal routine, and you promised to call when things changed, but that you wanted to get a shower and go to bed.
When you eventually called me to your side, it was around 4am. I found you dancing in the living room, complaining of your constant backache. A quick belly mapping told me your baby was OP, directly facing the world, all limbs out front.
I followed your lead and we walked the circuit of your living room, through your dining room, into the kitchen, and back to the living room. Around and around the stairwell you marched, a wide-legged sassy saunter and the occasional labor pause the only hint of your birthing time. You talked about your grandmother's birth stories, your friend's birth stories, and your sister's birth stories. I provided a double-hip squeeze and Terrance, your partner, took pictures from the stairs.
Some time later, you tried stairs and lunges, we worked on belly sifting and belly lifting. Your contractions became closer and soon you were working hard every 4 minutes, like clockwork, in a posterior labor pattern of triplet contractions, and a telltale pause.
You took a shower, ate some dinner, threw up your dinner, and took a nap in the tub on all-fours, with your head resting in Terrance's lap and my hands pressing on your pelvis.
Your contractions spaced out during your nap and Terrance and I talked in hushed tones, about his hopes and dreams of fatherhood, his fears of being able to live up to his own expectations, and how amazingly beautiful and sexy he viewed you as you carried his child and now, worked to bring it into the world.
You woke to one particularly strong contraction and hopped up into my lap. You simultaneously laughed and gritted your teeth as I hung onto you to make sure we didn't both fall back into the tub, and Terrance tried, unsuccessfully, to help us both. We dissolved into laughter, until that wave was a distant memory.
Dripping wet, we all got out of the tub, dried off, and you commenced your walking. This time, though, you were naked, and strong, and shining with sweat and effort. Your hair lay in unruly tangles about your ears and cheekbones, and your face was flushed with your excursions.
Consistently your contractions were 4 minute apart and much longer. You asked Terrance to take over your counterpressure as 'he did it meaner', and you asked me to take over being your mantra-keeper, as my voice 'didn't annoy' you.
You began vocalizing through them, closing your eyes, and tapping your fingertips against my back as I allowed you to go limp in my arms. I could feel Terrance quivering with the pressure he was applying to your hips and tailbone. It was time to move to your birthing place.
15 minutes later, and with just Terrance's long t-shirt hanging to your knees, you gyrated your way into L&D. You announced you were there to have a baby and began walking down the hall. Terrance and I smiled at each other, nodded toward the bewildered nurse, and followed you. I assume you had the intention of finding your own room.
The nurse jogged to catch up and directed you into a nearby room. She started hooking you up to the monitors while you threw off your shirt and continued to thrust your hips front, to back, to front. 'Umgh!' was your bodies song, and Terrance and I danced with you. He, pressed against your back, hands lifting your belly, hip bones pushing into your back. Me, gliding my hands across your forehead, down to your earlobes, and then further to your shoulders.
"Strong", "beautiful"... these words kept swirling around you and you grew determined, louder, more powerful. Your labor dance continued. It was evident that this baby wanted to stay looking out toward the world and had no intention of turning to face your tailbone.
Your nurse came in and said she wanted to check you. You snapped, 'No!' and the nurses eyes popped open in surprised indignation. I mentioned your baby was posterior, gave her a quick run down on your labor pattern and length, and your physical indicators. She looked at your strip, listened to your labor noises, and I pointed, quietly, to the trail of crimson running down both thighs.
Realization dawned on her face and she raced out of the room, returning quickly and quietly with the delivery cart, efficiently setting it up. Terrance gave her all of the information that she needed, in whispered tones, while pressing on your hips.
He mentioned, in an aside, 'her back is swollen'. Your nurse and I looked at your back and, indeed, your sacrum was pressing out. We smiled and I said that was good. Your nurse went to the cabinet and began pulling out items and warming up the baby warmer. She had every intention of staying, but was making herself quiet as a mouse.
I continued your mantra of "You are strong, you are powerful and beautiful". But your contractions were changing. You began pulling away from your body, shaking your head and vehemently stating, "no no NO!" at the beginning of every contraction. You began pulling up on your heels, pushing our hands away and shaking your head... "I'm not strong enough!" you panted, looking into my eyes with such conviction that I had no reason not to believe you.
But I held steadfast to what you asked me to do, to change your mind, as I knew you were on the verge of asking for something your non-labor self did not want. "You are strong enough..." You cut me off..
"I know", you panted... "I know my body is strong, blah blah... but..".. another contraction rolled over your body and you, once again raised your heels and moved away from the contraction, shaking your head from side to side. My eyes filled with sympathetic tears... I knew, in my heart, what you were fighting in your own heart and mind...
"your body is strong, yes, you know that... but did you know you are able?"
You shook your head no, now openly crying, melting in my arms.
Immediately your partner said, from behind you where he was still applying pressure to your back. "Yes! Yes, honey, you are able to do this! You are so able to go this last mile!"
You sobbed, "but how? How can I? I have run out of being strong. I'm not strong enough to do this... "
Terrance replied with a hitch in his own voice, "by knowing your body is strong enough to do it, you don't need to be strong anymore. All you need to do is be gentle, and soft... and pliable... and then you are able!"
The whole time he was speaking, you stared in my eyes and cried. I gently met your eyes in return, held your face in my hands, smoothed your hair back, and nodded in affirmation to everything your loving partner was speaking into your soul.
With the next contraction (which were now coming 2 minutes apart) you let out a long deep sigh and let your head drop back so that you faced the sky, with your eyes closed. Immediately, your whole body went limp, in a standing faint, and you turned your palms up toward the ceiling as well.
Terrance and I began whispering, "That's it, let it all go... your body is strong, you only need to be soft... pliable, gentle, open... let your body carry you to the finish line..."
After each contraction, in the 20 seconds or so that you had before the next one started, you would wrap your hands around your belly and chant, "thank you, thank you" while tears rolled down your flushed cheeks.
We both smiled at you, and then began whispering encouragement as another contraction would come wrapping around your body. We continued this beautiful dance, of you becoming gentle, melting against me with Terrance pressing on your back, and us reminding you of your one and only job... until finally you said, "I feel him down there."
Your nurse stuck her head out the door and asked another nurse at the station to get your doctor in the room. I thanked her for her quietness, for not using the call button. She nodded and slid to her knees to peer up at your bottom from between Terrance's legs.
She smiled and asked you if you could get on the bed. You shook your head no. She asked you if you were sure because your baby was about to come and she had never delivered in this position before. You shook your head no again and gasped, "just catch".
With your next contraction, you sank, in slow motion, to your knees and put both hands between your thighs, cupping your babies head as it slowly pressed outward against the two sets of waiting hands. Terrance melted right down with you and continued to press open your hips, and I melted onto the floor as well, holding you up by your shoulders as you assumed a modified all-fours...
With the next contraction, we heard the pop and trickle of your water breaking as your babies head slid into your hands. You purred 'baby!' in the most awestruck voice I have ever heard, as your fingers traced your child's eyebrows, ears, nose, and lips. Your nurse quickly felt for a cord.
Another whispered 'thank you'.
And then a surprised yelp as your baby slid out of your body and directly into your and your nurse's waiting hands. Immediately you set back onto the floor and pulled your baby up to your chest. As your baby let out a lusty, quivering cry, you said, matter-of-factly, "I'm holding balls".
Terrance paused in his tears of joy for a moment of confusion before it dawned on all of us, you were telling the world that you had just given birth to a son. Terrance yelped in joy and moved his son's leg to look. Sure enough, you were holding a scrotum in your hand as you held your newborn babe to your breast.
We all laughed out loud and, at that exact moment, your doctor walked in. We looked around and noticed a nursery nurse had slipped in unobtrusively as well.
We helped you up onto the bed, where you quickly birthed your son's placenta, and your nurse and I helped clean you up. Your doctor patted your leg, admired your baby, and left. Your nurse helped you to the bathroom while Terrance and the nursery nurse did your babies newborn exam.
After everyone had left, your son began nuzzling and rooting, so you placed him near your breast. He set up, opened his mouth wide, and self-attached without a second thought. We, again, laughed.
Before I left, I asked who you were 'thanking'. It took you awhile to recall what I was talking about, but then you said something that will stay with me forever:
"I was thanking my body for doing it for me. I didn't need to be strong. That wasn't my job, my job was not to be strong and powerful. My body was doing just fine being strong without me. My job, my only job, was to be soft and pliable... and only when I realized I didn't need to be strong, I only needed to be soft and pliable.. only then did I really believe I was able to make it to the finish line."
Welcome earth-side baby Gabrien Emmett, "God's Able-Bodied and Strong One".