The Story of Colette’s Birth
We had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of our new baby for weeks. Davi, our fabulous midwife, had told me that I would probably go past my due date. So I had gotten into the mode of enjoying each day that I had off of work: meeting friends for lunches, relaxing in our apartment, and getting things done before the baby came. On Saturday, December 11th, we went to our friends' Jen and Steve's house for a Christmas party. No one could believe that I was due in four days. I felt good and Matt and I sat together outside by the fire talking to other people who were there. We had an amazing meal at a beautifully decorated table with great conversation. We got home at 11 that night and went to bed. I woke up at 1:30 and went to the bathroom. My panties were wet and I thought my water had broken. I changed them and they got wet again. I knew the baby was coming! I was shaking - both nervous and excited. Matt called Davi and she said we should go back to bed, or, if we couldn't, we should drink a glass of wine and go back to bed. I couldn't sleep. I lay there for over an hour until I finally woke Matt up and we went out to the table to have a glass of wine together. This was my first glass of wine in almost 9 months, and I got a little buzz and went right to sleep. We woke up around 8am. We were supposed to have an open house at 12 to rent one of the units at Grafton Street, so Matt went over to open the house and leave the rental applications. I sent out a few emails (one to a friend to cancel lunch the next day and one to tell a potential tenant that I wouldn't be there since I was having a baby that day!). Throughout the night and the early morning, I was feeling light contractions, but nothing that stopped me from cleaning up, moving around, writing emails and making calls. I called my mom and dad to tell them I was going to have the baby soon. They were bursting with excitement. All during this time, my mind was getting fuzzier and fuzzier. Over the course of the day, it got harder to think - to use my intellect. I think this was my body slowly closing out the outside world to gear up for the birth.
Matt got home around 11am, and I was definitely feeling the contractions. It was getting harder for me to concentrate on doing things around the house or talking to people. We went for walks and I especially liked pacing back and forth in our house. I was listening to my hypnobabies CDs on the ipod and talking to the baby, telling him/her that we were going to go through this together and that I would be there the whole time. Matt was timing the contractions and they were getting closer and closer together. I was focused on trying to minimize the discomfort, and walking felt best.
Ofelia, our doula, and Davi came over at 2pm. We waited as long as possible to call them because I was really enjoying the time with Matt. Davi was dressed up (in her usual eastern-looking clothing) and I told her how lovely she looked for the birth of our baby. Davi checked me and said that I wasn't even in active labor! I was so surprised. I had been feeling like I could handle labor (although it already felt intense) but this meant I wasn't even close. Davi said she wanted me to focus on my body opening up - my cervix opening for the baby to come through. This became my mantra during the contractions - "open, open, open..." Ofelia was by my side for the next few hours. I lay on the couch while she massaged my legs; she, Matt and I went for a walk outside; I sat on an exercise ball in the shower with hot water pouring down on me; we took a walk around our floor of the apartment complex; I sat on the toilet and I got back into the shower. All the while the contractions were increasing in intensity. The craziest part was that in between contractions, I was just fine, as if nothing had happened. But Ofelia was constantly reminding me to relax in between. I was breathing heavily and keeping my body tensed up with the memory of the contraction. She kept reminding me to stay relaxed and to take a deep breath and relax in between. When the next contraction would start, I would tell Ofelia or Matt it was beginning and then go inside myself. I’d go so completely inside so that I could stay on top of the wave (as Davi was constantly reminding me). And it felt exactly like a wave. A bigger and bigger wave as time went on, but a wave nonetheless. The sensation begins, and increases and increases until it peaks, and then subsides. Sometimes it felt like the next one would come right away and sometimes it felt like I would have long periods in between. And all the while (when possible) I was talking to the baby - telling the baby, that I was here and that we were doing this together. I was here for it. There were times when I was so very tired that I wondered how I could possibly go on. It was a deep exhaustion that I have never felt. But then I would think that I could, or Ofelia would remind me how strong I was. I would go on and I would forget about being so tired.
Finally Matt started putting up the pool in our bedroom at the foot of the bed. At some point, Ofelia called Davi and asked her to come back earlier than she had planned. At one point, I remember laying at the foot of the bed with Matt spooning me. We were alone in the room and it was really nice to have him there. I felt like I wanted to tell him that, to thank him, but I couldn't really say what I wanted to. Maybe I felt like I couldn't break my concentration or I couldn't use the energy to put it into words. And then someone suggested I get into the pool. It was the most perfect, wonderful thing ever. So nice and warm and really helped me to relax even more. I was hanging on the side and Matt was sitting on the outside. Our heads were side by side. I would tell him when a contraction started and he was there, peacefully, by my side. I put my head down and put everything - all of my human effort- into staying on top of the wave…into remembering that I was stronger than the wave and that it wasn't hurting me. It was only getting my body ready for the baby to come out. It seemed like Davi was there to remind me of this right when my confidence was faltering.
And SUDDENLY, I had the overwhelming, absolute need to push. It possessed me. And I shouted out, "I feel like I need to push!" And Davi, Matt and Ofelia said "Do it!" And I started to push. Wow! So intense. So unbearable at times. All I could think about was getting the baby out. No matter what. At one point, Matt and Ofelia were each holding one of my legs from outside the pool. The second time my low gutteral pushing noise became a scream, Davi said "Jessica, that is not productive. It's not helping you push the baby out." This brought me back to myself. She also told me to push against the contraction, to push even harder than I felt the contraction. This concept really helped. I also started to think the baby was stuck - like it was taking so long and the baby wasn't coming out. I told Davi and she had me reach down and feel the head between my legs. What a weird feeling! I could feel my soft body parts on the side and a hard head in between. Then I knew the baby was coming.
For some reason, Davi told me I needed to get out of the pool and onto the bed. I still haven't asked her why, but when she said this, I said I couldn't, it was impossible. She said "No, you are going to get up and get out of the pool after the next contraction." And somehow, I listened to her and did it. She was such an amazing guide. She was always understanding but firm when I needed it. So I got onto the bed and tried to push once on my hands and knees, but I didn't have enough traction for the pushing. I turned around onto my back but I was propped up with lots of pillows behind me. Ofelia and Matt took one leg and I kept pushing. I remember seeing the head coming out and thinking that my body parts didn't seem like mine at all. It was so surreal. Suddenly the head popped out. And I pushed again and the shoulders popped out. And Davi said "Reach down and pull your baby out!" And I did. I would have done anything in the world at that point to get the baby out. Anything! I pulled her right out and up onto my chest. Matt and I were so overwhelmed with joy. We were crying and touching the baby. And then the baby let out the tiniest little cry. It was so precious and Matt and I laughed with joy. It's a sound I hope I will never forget. Someone covered the baby and me with blankets. It seemed like some time passed until I remembered we didn't know if it was a boy or a girl. So I asked. Davi said that we should look and see at the same time that Ofelia whispered that it was a girl. We opened the legs and sure enough! It was a girl! Literally one of the biggest surprises of my life. I had been so sure it was a boy, I just couldn't believe it. The next bit of time was a blur, but Matt was right there holding us - we were all holding each other and we were loving the baby. She was so perfect and right there with us. What joy! What an amazing journey it had been! After a while, I felt like I needed to push again and I pushed the placenta out. That wasn't really hard, but it was a relief. More time on the bed snuggling and loving on the baby and each other. Matt and I kissed a lot. So sweet. Such a joyous time. The pink lights in our bedroom were perfect for enjoying this time. Soft and sweet. At some point, Jo, Davi's assistant, had arrived to help. After a long while, Davi showed us that the cord had stopped pulsing. The placenta was in a bowl which Davi brought around to the side, and we both felt the cord. It felt almost like a hose - really strong. Matt cut it and the baby was officially part of our world!
After that, I had to have stitches, which was so very painful. It turns out the baby came out with one fist at her cheek and one under her chin, which made for a lot of stitches. They couldn't figure out where I was bleeding. The baby was on my chest the whole time and Matt was right at my face helping me through it. I also had an IV since I had lost a lot of blood.
After more time together, they weighed and measured the baby. Everything about this time was so nice. Davi didn't do anything without asking us whether it was okay (even things like the vitamin K that we had agreed upon in advance). I loved seeing the baby get weighed with Davi's scale. They put the baby in a little cloth, which was attached to a device that could tell her weight. Davi asked Matt to hold the device so she could see the weight.
By 3am or so, everyone left and we were alone with the baby. We took turns having her sleep on our chest. I knew I should be tired, but I felt so wide awake. She was so little and precious. We still hadn't decided on her name (we didn't until the end of the next day, Monday, the 13th). We talked about that and all about the birth. How amazing it was and what Matt and I each experienced.
Overall, I feel like giving birth in our home was really one of the most amazing experiences of my life. My most special memories are of the quiet whisperings of Matt and the women who were here helping me. Everyone supported me in every way possible, gave me the strength and confidence to keep going. It was a special experience between my baby and me - ultimately it was something that only the two of us fully experienced together. There was also a certain curiosity of the whole thing because I had no idea what was coming next, even between the birthing waves. When would it return? How would it feel? When would the baby arrive? Everything was so foreign and new, which made it easy to be in the present moment. I am eternally grateful for all of the help I received and that I had a healthy baby. The fact that she was born in the loving space of our home was a beautiful bonus. I wish that all women could have the gentle birth experience that I did. I have never felt so grateful or so empowered.