Any person who is familiar with midwifery has most likely heard of Ina May Gaskin. She stated it best when she said, “When you destroy midwives, you also destroy a body of knowledge that is shared by women, that can’t be put together by a bunch of surgeons or a bunch of male obstetricians, because physiologically, birth doesn’t happen the same way around surgeons, medically trained doctors, as it does around sympathetic women.” My midwives who surrounded me during the birth of my son were those sympathetic women, holding my hand, cheering me on in the final and most difficult stages when I was exhausted from vomiting for hours upon hours. It’s those women who allowed me to experience birth as a right of passage into motherhood, seeing me change from wife into mother, and assisting me throughout that transition. Here is my story.
Saturday, July 26, 2014. Week 40.5. 12:41 pm.
My husband, Russell, and I were in my small Honda Civic headed to run an errand when my thoughts of Chick Fil A wraps were interrupted with his shouting, “They’re gonna hit us!”
F250 slammed into the back of us.
Our car slammed into the back of an F150. We were sandwiched in between two large trucks and made our way off the busy street.At that moment, I felt tightening in my lower back, questions commandeering my mind and fear unrelenting. “Are these contractions? Is this pain from a car wreck? I’ve never had contractions before, so I don’t know what to expect, but I do know that I want to make sure my baby is unharmed and safe from the impact.” Tears started flooding my eyes as I started to think of all the “what ifs.” Everything around me was still as I sat in the passenger seat of my totaled car praying to God for health and for peace. My introspection was interrupted when the paramedics showed up and helped me onto the stretcher and into the ambulance. Off to the hospital we go, which was not on the daily agenda at all.
When we arrived there, they asked who my Obstetrician is. I told them I am being seen by a midwife and the entire tone of treatment changed. They asked my due date and I told them I was due on 7/22/14. They looked up from their notes and exclaimed with surprise, “So you’re overdue.” When I responded with, “I’m 40.5 weeks,” they went back to acquiring more information. The way in which they spoke to me was as if I were an unintelligent, uneducated woman who was making a very unwise decision about the way I chose to give birth. Prior to even being evaluated, they started talking about reasons for an emergency caesarean section. On top of that, they told me the “risks” of being past my due date. After about the third person that asked if I knew the risks of carrying past due date, I informed her that I was well aware of the risks and that I was not considered “overdue” until week 42 because due dates are simply estimations. She dropped it at that point and continued to look at her sonogram machine. She then informed me that Duke had passed his screening with a six out of eight because “I can’t see him breathing,” but everyone else in the room saw his heart raging at a healthy 140 bpm, so I knew my baby was just fine. Let’s also not forget that I had eaten granola and yogurt at 5:30 am, then AN apple at 11:24 so it would make sense that my child wouldn’t be super playful having not had much food. (I eventually did get my Chick Fil A wrap, in case you were wondering.)
Every conversation I had with each person of the hospital staff was motivated by a four-letter word. FEAR. I grew up believing that God doesn’t give people a spirit of fear. He gives us POWER. He gives us LOVE. And he gives us a SOUND MIND. A mind to think, a mind to make logical and well, thought-out decisions. After five long hours of sitting in the labor and delivery room at the hospital, I was released. My unborn child completely unscathed, and my birth plan unaltered. *Disclaimer: Had there been complications that were evident, I would have consented to medical intervention. That’s why obstetricians are there and are of much value. But I don’t see how fear is a beneficial motivator. My midwife, Andrea, sat with me through all of it…the hospital testing, the questioning… and she continued to reassure me. She believed in me and she believed in the health of my baby. My other midwife, Toni, had also been in constant contact with me since the accident and throughout treatment at the hospital, as well. I’ve never heard of an OB who sits with you during a difficult time just to ease your fears.*
Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Week 41.0. 4:28 am.
I woke up feeling the need to vomit. This has been a common feeling throughout my entire pregnancy, so I disregarded it for the first ten minutes after waking. After those ten minutes were up, I felt them. Hot and tight. A gripping in my lower back that rolled out from the center of my spine all the way to the front of my belly. My belly would become hard and firm. I knew this was a contraction. And not those Braxton Hicks-y ones either. This was a force of nature. They progressed, and progressed for an additional two hours. That was when we called my midwife and she met with me in my home to do an evaluation. I was right at four cm when she arrived at my home at about 9:30 a.m. She said I could go on to the birth center if I wanted to, or I could labor some more at home. I decided to take my time dodling around my house, taking a leisure shower, gathering some nick nacks for the birth center. We ended up arriving at the center about 12:45 ish. That’s where I continued to labor for the next 14 hours. The tub went from full to empty, then back to full several times during my active labor stage. My precious husband never once left my side unless it was to get me something I needed. Having never been pregnant before, I knew that the unknowns of labor can be daunting. I also know that pain can cause fear and fear causes physical tension and discomfort within the human body. Knowing this, I had decided earlier in my pregnancy to write out birth affirmations as personal reminders that I am STRONG. That I am BRAVE. That I am in full CONTROL of my body. “The power and intensity of a contraction cannot be stronger than you because it is you.”(Unknown)
My husband held my pain-stricken body with both of his comforting arms time after time after time. Not once did his arms tire, even after hours of holding me up as I labored. Contraction after contraction, his soft words of encouragement gave me the strength to make it through just a few more moments of intense discomfort… just one more episode of vomiting. He was strong for me, so I could be strong through the next wave of pain. I used to think there is nothing more intimate than the act of making love which manifests into human life. While that act is still sacred, there is something much more sacred about laboring together as a unit, as one body in pursuit of a family. Each contraction was one step closer to holding our son. Each discomfort was one more level that we beat. I was at war with myself to see if I could be stronger that I thought. I finally beat transition, and was on to the second stage of labor: Pushing.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014, Week 41.1. 1:20 am.
At this time, my midwife, Toni, suggested I get out of the tub to push. The intensity of the contractions had made it difficult for me to get enough oxygen, so I was given a personal tank all for myself that helped me keep winning my battle of birth. At this point, I was past utter exhaustion and physically depleted from vomiting all food, liquid, and those ” super yummy” electrolyte drinks. (Thank God they had the orange flavor, because that one was actually manageable, The strawberry kiwi one on the other hand… not so much.) My body told me I was physically done, past my point. So much for trying to do what your body was designed to do… But my mind told me I can’t quit until I have held my son. As I sat on the birthing stool, I bared down with each contraction as they came, then relaxed into the safety and comfort of my husband. Each time I relaxed, I had to will myself to get back up, to fight for birth. But it was getting really difficult to keep fighting.
While in between contractions, I felt for the first time my son’s head. He was so close to being in my arms and forever in my heart. That’s when I heard the words “transport” and “hospital.” Toni then told me we have to get this baby out. Duke’s head would bulge, but didn’t really descend out any further. Still playing mental games with myself I whispered, “I CAN do this.” My birth team shouted back at me with great passion, “YES, YOU CAN!” because they misunderstood my whispered ‘can’ for whispered ‘can’t.’ So I forcefully said, “I SAID THAT!” and it was in that fight or flight moment that I knew I would continue to fight.
I was too far into this battle not to come out victorious. I mentally strategized how I would muster up my feminine power to beat this. The next contraction erupted within me and I bared down with all my might pushing past all my preconceived notions about what I thought I was capable of, and showing myself what I actually can achieve. I can’t take full credit for this kind of strength. It was a divine strength. A strength that comes from being grounded in the might of an infinite Creator. One push and my son’s head went from crowning to fully emerged. Sounds of celebration came from the mouths of my birth team and their encouragement drove me to continue to push with just as much intensity as before. The next contraction came and with the same amount of force Duke’s shoulders were out. However, Toni then instructed me to wait to push on the next contraction so I could save my energy. After summoning all physical energy along with praying to God for strength my son was born.
I looked at him.
He was perfection.
Healthy, vibrant, and beautiful…
I later learned while Duke was coming through the birth canal he had a head compression and a double cord around his neck which caused his heart rate to fall from 140 bpm to 80. My team of midwives were prepared and ready to resuscitate with proper equipment and superb training regarding infant resuscitation, if needed. BUT IT WASN’T. Not once was I given any reason to doubt myself or fear my ability to birth my son, thanks to my birth team who believed in me and valued my birth plan. They taught me to be fearless when it was easy to fear. They taught me that I can keep going when all I want to do is fall off my horse and die on the battle field. They taught me that pain is only temporarily felt and that the deepest feeling of jubilation sometimes comes from the deepest pain.
“The pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that is coming.” Romans 8:18