I crawled out of bed after a day or two of bearing my soul to my midwife and soul sisters and started to dream a new dream.
With fervor I came to understand the obstacles that I would need to overcome in order to experience a low-intervention birth and began to eat, eat, eat and eat some more. Despite constant nausea, I rallied my body to accept 100+ grams of protein a day. When I woke in the middle of the night to pee, I drank 600 calorie, 30g protein shakes and ate macadamia nuts. As the days passed, I began to move from overwhelmed to empowered and felt occasional glints of excitement for what lay ahead. By the time my 36th week of pregnancy rolled around, I was enjoying the constant chivalry of strangers and wide eyes gawking at my watermelon belly. And, by the time all names were chosen: Eliana and Rosa if they would be girls, and Mateo and Sebastian if they were boys, I was in love with these two mysterious beings within me. Scared, but in love.
On a trip to Cape May, I walked the beach, asking the Ocean to provide me a shell that would come with me to my birth place and infuse me with the wisdom of the ocean: resist the waves and be knocked over- flow with them and enjoy the wild ride. After a few laps up and down the beach, I gave up the search and looked up to see my husband Jose waving his arms in the surf. He dunked under again and came back with his hands full. On the beach he showed me the treasures he had found: The core of three conch shells, displaying the spiral that has always been my strongest image of birth- spiral in, spiral out.
On the morning of the beginning of my 36th week, I woke with contractions. I took a bath to see if they would fade, but they stayed with me and I knew that the last leg of my quest lay before me. I hopped into the car with my son and returned home 9 hours later after a day of errands: chiropractor, shopping, and tying up loose ends. My husband returned home around 6 and between increasingly intense contractions, I submitted our quarterly sales tax report right before the deadline. Thinking that we might need to leave in the middle of the night we called my parents to pick up our son Liam. I cried and cried when my little love walked out the door and I knew that our twosome would be forever changed. Over the next hours, I called my doula and dear friend Amy and told her not now but maybe tonight and called Dr. Banks and said the same.
Bath, ball, I should eat but I can’t, rocking, don’t talk to me, okay fine I’ll go to the hospital though I am certain it is too early.
We arrived to Morristown Memorial Hospital and my water broke. Amy, who arrived just 5 minutes after we did though she drove from Reading, PA, ran downstairs to move the car out of the ambulance zone and was back in a flash. I got checked and I was 8, no…9cm.
The flurry of activity set in: doc called, a million questions, and needing to be on the monitor. Before all the questions were answered I was feeling pushy. We rolled into the OR and within a few minutes, my body was pushing those boys out on its own. The nurse shouted “push!!” She kept on directing me to lay on my back and grab my legs and “PUSH!!!” but I new that within minutes it would all be done whether or not I put forth any effort. My dear doula had one hand and whispered in my ear “stay on top of it” and “remember your perineum.” My husband had the other and I lay on my side staring at the floor and bedrails saying bad words. Amy’s voice carried through those overwhelming waves. It was all I had to do- stay on top of it. Only stay on top of it and nothing else. For all the times I have whispered words of love and encouragement into the ears of laboring women, I never knew how much they mean. I clung to her words like a life raft that helped me not be knocked over by those waves. I can’t way I enjoyed the wild ride, but I made it through to the other side.
Mateo was born after I gave into the urge and pushed along with the contraction one or two times. Sebastian’s feet popped out and one push later he joined us. Amy, remembering that I really wanted to experience the birth of my breech baby said “Flynnie, I think you really want to see this.”
And that was it. All the fear, all the fighting for the birth I wanted and like Christmas morning it was over in a breath. I saw my boys for only a moment and away they went although they were healthy, loud, pink and healthy weights. Jose went with the boys and Amy and I went back to the room where I downed a piece of my placenta (totally freaked out Dr. Banks) and rode the wave of elation until Amy reminded me that time was passing and the staff would soon come to suggest formula feeding. Perhaps my only regret is that I was wrapped up in my accomplishment and didn’t get into mama tiger mode when I could have. By the time the hour had passed so quickly, their blood sugar was dangerously low and their first meal was not of my body but of a plastic bottle. I still shed tears when I remember our first hour apart. Their first moments are unknown to me and are forever lost.
Looking back on my labor, it seems more something that happened to me than something I did. I had prepared for the fire of birth to burn from my soul the things that no longer served me. I intended to hold in my heart the patters I wanted to be stripped of and ask birth to do with them as she may.
Though I did not hold anything to the flames of birth’s fire that night,id emerge from the experience prepared to mother my three boys. Although my babies were not born in my home, they were birthed consciously and with respect and love.