Reflecting on my previous birth experience, I wanted to try a few things differently. Though my birth with the Grace Louise was instinctive, empowering, vocal, and ultimately glorious in bringing me my daughter, I envisioned a new perception of what is often called pain, a quietness and calm. I envisioned a connectedness with the last stage of labor, one that was slow and deliberate.
I chose peace, relaxation, focus, presence, and normalcy for the birth of Jamesy. Jimmy and I rented a beautiful home in Winter Haven, which we affectionately called The Birthing House. Supporting a doula client and friend only two weeks before in the same home, same birth pool, it was a familiar, warm, and safe place to be. The time of preparation was fun, exciting, and relaxing-- in and of itself an experience. Our family enjoyed one afternoon shortly prior to the birth, swimming, watching a movie, napping, and simply loving the space and time with each other.
I began preparing for this birth months before, learning deep relaxation through self-hypnosis. Allowing the perfect love of God to cast out all fear and trusting the Holy Spirit to lead me narrowly in a potentially wide place, I began the HypnoBabies home study course. During nap time, I would lie in bed, listening to these CD’s, and every night while floating in a warm oil bath. Convinced that deep and unconditional relaxation would pave the way for my dream birth, I practiced.
Jamesy shared a due date with his dad! Though I wanted so badly for them to share a birthday, the Lord’s way proved different. A week later, August 14th, around noon, I began to notice more regular waves of pressure and finally evidence of my mucous plug. I love telling my husband with confidence, “This is the day!” So much excitement surrounds those words. Jimmy came home from work and got a few last minute things ready. I showered and checked my cervix, inspiring me to remain open and connected to my body. For the last weeks of my pregnancy I would do this, along with deep squatting in the shower, visualizing the process of birth. Birth is normal, natural, part of who we are as mothers. Birth is close to us. Birth is in and through us. We touch it. We feel it. Through it, we bear witness to our Creator.
Unsure of how quickly I would progress, I gathered my essential oils and food from the refrigerator, and headed over to the Birthing House. We figured it best to arrive with plenty of time to get settled. After all, spare time could easily be enjoyed with the pool, dinner, and a good movie! Grace Louise was anxious and chatty in the car. I played my Birthing Day Affirmations Hypnobabies CD, slightly reclined the seat, and closed my eyes. As Jimmy pulled into the Cafe Creme parking lot to satisfy my craving for a pre-birthing pomegranate snow cone, I felt a stronger rush, one that required silence. Whew, that was fast. Jimmy explained to Grace Louise the importance of using a quiet voice while mommy was having pressure waves. (A product of birth talk with mommy left her using this term). Jimmy ran inside while I called Midwife Marianne. We also called our parents and close friends, especially those we knew would be lifting us up in prayer!
Having already false-alarmed my dear friend and doula Elizabeth, I did not want to call her just yet, though Jimmy insisted. I relented about half way to Winter Haven. We shared a giddy excitement and she conveyed her strong assumption that things would move quickly. I planned to update her once I arrived at the birthing house and was settled. We drove passed Tsunami Sushi... Mmmm, dinner? Yes please! We planned to order and have Elizabeth pick it up on her way. I texted my talented photographer friend, Lexi, who would capture our son coming into the world. What a blessing she would be!
It was 6:00pm. I brought a few things inside and had Jimmy fill up the birth pool. Aunt Lindsey was there in a hurry and ready to keep Grace Louise occupied for much of my birthing time. We were ordering our sushi just as Elizabeth arrived. Her intuition led her to come sooner than expected, and I’m so glad she did! The waves of pressure were steadily increasing, though quietness and swaying was sufficient to sooth. Instinctually, I headed back into the birthing room and Elizabeth followed. She smelled of lavender oil and her presence confirmed the normalcy of birth. I turned on the Hypnobabies Birthing CD, read through my birthing scriptures, and lit my essential oil diffuser- clary sage, frankincense, bergamot, altogether rendering birthing memories from my doula client, just weeks before. All is well and will be well. Birth is normal. Birth is life. Here we go.
You are my refuge and strength, my ever present help in time of need!
You did not give me a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind!
-2 Tim 1:7
For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.
If I cast my cares upon you, you will sustain me!
You are perfecting that which concerns me!
Jimmy announced he would be driving to pick up our dinner. No problem. A doula is always there. This would be a woman to woman birth, I always knew. As the pressure continued to increase, my eyes stayed closed all the more, my focus inward. Swaying with my hands on the dresser, gentle hip squeezes. I tried hands and knees on the bed but couldn’t relax completely that way. So back to standing and swaying.
I went to the bathroom and encountered a body-jolting contraction while squatting on the toilet. My toes literally curled; I braced against the seat, and pressed myself up with my hands. I would experience the only intense pain of this labor there. My body confirmed what I already knew. I must relax.
I learned that each contraction could do its full work when I was fully relaxed. That a painless birth was within my reach. My perception of my experience, of each contraction, was pressure and stretching, not pain.
The warm water of the birthing tub was calling my name. I eased in, releasing any residual tension, and breathed a huge sigh of relief. A big smile swept across my face. I vaguely remember saying something about being thankful I didn’t wait a second longer. The familiar voice from the hypnobabies CD ushered me into deep relaxation, yoga nidra. Lucid sleep. In my minds’ eye, I saw my cervix stretching and opening, my baby descending. I was welcoming him each step of the way, casting aside any resistance, and allowing each contraction to do the intended work. My eyes were gently closed, body limp and and resting on the side of the birth pool.
Within an hour of settling into the birthing room, I reached transition. Unbelievable. This is truly working! And so fast! Jimmy committed his presence and support, bringing me a washcloth doused in peppermint oil to ease nausea. Elizabeth joined me in the birthing pool, and our midwife and her apprentice, who were on the way, were encouraged to come quickly! Our friend and photographer also arrived and contributed to the beautiful atmosphere with her graceful presence. So deeply engulfed in birth, I did not greet her, but knew she was there and heard what seemed like hesitant clicks of her camera shutter. I imagine her standing back in complete honor of the process, pondering her own experience, and wondering how to still the impending miracle moments.
I became vocal for the first time while in transition, remaining open and relaxed as my energy and sounds pressed downward. Jaw hanging, nods of personal affirmation, “Yes, this is good. I am open. I am relaxed.” With each tightening of my uterus, hips and bottom blossoming, baby boy moved down. Elizabeth massaged my back, squeezed my hips, and along with Jimmy, offered her complete confidence. Jimmy cued me to peace during the heightened work of relaxation and mental focus. More nods. More limp. My mental roving body check. Every part submitted to this task of peace and loose.
Grace Louise unexpectedly joined us at one point, offering her insatiable curiosity and, of course, her loving touch on mommy’s head. And then back to movie-watching with Aunt Lindsey. I found joy in her brief presence; she affirmed normalcy and inspired me to press on in this same relaxed way.
I really did not want to push this baby out forcefully, like my last experience. I actually did not want to push at all. Instead of hurrying his entrance, I would let him come at the perfect time. It was almost 9:00pm. I remained in the squatting position, my knees spreading further and further, as my hips opened and the baby’s head crowned. I had never even pushed! I reached down, enjoying this moment. The hardest work of relaxation and submission was over. I felt completely present, completely normal, and full of anticipation. I took long deep breaths and looked to Marianne for guidance. He descended and retreated with a few contractions, doing the work of stretching and preparing. I stood for a moment, Elizabeth applying a handful of blended frankincense to my perineum. With the next wave of pressure, his head emerged. Silence. “I’m just going to wait,” I said, cupping his soft, slimy head in my hands and fingering the bridge of his nose, his cheek, his ear. Three minutes passed, which seemed like an eternity. But I waited with confidence. And then finally, the rest of this sweet baby boy swam into my arms. His immediate cry was music to my ears. And just like that, he was here and dreams were realized; once again birth was normal and beautiful, empowering, painless and even relaxing. A simple three hour labor of love. Jimmy called for Grace Louise, who eagerly climbed into the birth pool, not batting an eye at the side effects of birth. With loving pats and soothing shhh’s, she helped us welcome baby brother into our now family of four.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
-1 Corinthians 10:31