At 3:30am Christmas morning, I woke for my middle of the night bathroom trip. Feh was at the computer, unable to sleep. I got back in bed and had dreamy drifting thoughts. I woke when I heard a THWAP sound come from inside. I waited a beat. Then, a contraction. Then, a few minutes later, another contraction. I assessed, got out of bed and felt liquid running down my legs. I walked to the living room and told feh I thought my water had just broke. He smiled.
We were ready. I’d been ready to have this baby for a month. I’d been whining about wanting this baby to get out for a week. I’d read all I could about birth and delivery. He’d read and endured all he could of a pregnant lady and her developments. We’d taken twelve weeks of child-birth classes. We were 100% ready for it.
I had imagined it, based on what I’d been taught. I might have hours of “a-contraction-here, a-contraction-there.” I might look out windows at beautiful trees and wait calmly between waves. I might listen to the playlists I’d made of “labor” music (Mazzy Star, Nina Simone, Bright Eyes…), take a walk or two, slow-dance, maybe watch Finding Nemo. The one thing I was sure of was that this was going to be alright. No fear.
My lolly-gagging, pass-the-time-while-you’re-in-early-labor techniques were of no use to me. The THWAP happened and we were hot on course. Contractions began five minutes apart and lasted up to 45 seconds. I called my Mom and my midwife. I held the phone away from my ear and smiled while my Mom screamed excitedly. Feh and I made sure we were in the flow, and went with it.
[Here I verbosely thanked feh…It isn’t fair of me to strip all that lavish attention out. And life isn’t fair. It hurts me to read it. I will say he was a solid, exceeds expectations, first-time mom’s, labor coach.] I want to congratulate and thank him for helping me during the beautiful birth of our beautiful son.
Feh strapped a watch to his wrist. The contractions came more quickly than I expected. I spent about four hours with my eyes closed. When I was not having a contraction I was in a half sleep state. I keened deeply throughout the labor, like Ina May had instructed me. Of all my learning, it was what I read in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
that really directed me from the outside. That being said, I was directed from within more than anything else.
Ina May had assured me that my “monkey body” knows just what it’s doing. All “I” had to do was get out of the way. Feh put all our biggest pots on the stove to boil extra water for the tub. He cranked the heat to 75. He was there at every turn, right in sync.
My body emptied itself of all unneeded contents within the first two hours of labor. By hour four, 8:30am, I was deeply entrenched in the place my midwife calls labor land: my eyes closed and my body working. We were waiting for my contractions to lengthen out. By 10am it had happened, they were two minutes apart, one minute long.
“The cavalry has been called in,” feh told me. I hunkered down. I was happy to know my midwife was on her way. As I moaned more and more, feh began reminding me, “the only way out is through.” My midwife and her people (wonderful people: her assistant – a talented doula and educator, and her husband – the dry towels, dry humor man) arrived a half hour later. Looking now, I can see that feh really did most of the work the women were there to ensure needed be done. The women, who I adore even more now than I did before, encouraged the work feh and I were doing together and made sure we were ready.
The last two hours of contractions were intense. I had very little down time between powerful contractions. I never opened my eyes. I was on our living room floor for much of it, my knees under me in Child’s Pose, my head hanging limply and swinging on my neck to some mystical rhythm of its own design. Sometime near 11:30am my midwife suggested I get in the tub.
Once in the tub the contractions became even stronger. I knew it was time. A shadow emerged. I felt fear. With my first real urge to push I said it out loud. “I’m scared.” I knew there was no use to it, but the shadow wanted me to try and run away. Feh was there with encouraging words. My body was unstoppable but the fear looked for the brakes.
I flipped over onto my hands and knees in the tub, as before in the living room. For the next two contractions I roared a sound I’ve never heard before. My midwife told me to take that roar inside for the next contraction, to close my mouth and bring that roar down deep and use it to push out. I did, hard. I heard them tell about feeling his head. I heard them say he was crowning. I heard them talking, saying, saying. I felt his head move down, his shoulders… Just before, my midwife asking me to take a breath and slow down, telling me to “shhhhhh!” hard with the contraction. Now, the memory of that feeling, of him moving down, makes me wish I could have slowed down and done something like savor it, but out he came, like a rocket. Little, perfect Salamander into our worlds and it was done. Christmas day, 12:25 p.m. 8 lbs. 18.5″
Beforehand, I thought it would be an immense spiritual opening. I thought I would shake with tears as big as earthquakes when I saw him. At the time, it was different. It was pure awe. I had other emotions pinging off of me like hard rain and felt nothing but euphoria. Feh was in the tub with his pant legs rolled up, holding him. Salamander’s quick cry to let us know he was here, and then his patient, curious face, his perfect pink, his chestnut hair, his dimpled cheeks. A complete miracle, how did you happen? Our son, we did it, look at you, good job, my love…
This is a revised edition of a post originally written on Jan. 3, 2011, on my blog, Subterranean Fire. All aspects that now feel dis-empowering, or sour the beautiful passage, have been removed.
a relief, a healing, a step on the path