In Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, a mother shares a birth story where she repeats the mantra “I am going to get huge” throughout her pregnancy. The idea was this – a man’s sex organ easily and effortlessly expands and then contracts back to its original size when and as necessary. We don’t think it’s odd for it to double or triple in size and then return without any harm or painful stretching happening. Well, a woman’s body is meant to do the same. We are built and made to have babies, to allow our bodies to expand to hold them for 9 or 10 months and then open wide enough to birth them into the world.
In my morning meditations, I would visualize my womb expanding and my cervix dilating into its own vast solar system. I would picture my body opening wide to access another world; a world full of stars and planets, beaming with new life. I would repeat “I am going to get huge,” and picture opening, opening, opening, easily and effortlessly.
On Wednesday, February 27, Ross and I got in bed for our nightly foot massage. He had been doing this for the past week or so and I loved it because 1) it felt amazing and 2) it was a time for us to connect again at the end of the day. After the massage, I noticed my breasts were more sore than usual, like a dull, thumping pain. It was very light but new. I went to sleep around 9 pm. I had been sleeping almost 10 hours a night that week so it was normal for me to go to sleep around 9 pm and wake up around 7.
At 1 am I couldn’t sleep because I was hungry so I got up to eat an apple with almond butter and then went back to sleep. No signs of impending labor at this point. At 3:30 am I woke up again because I was still hungry and had some pretty mild cramping. I made a piece of Ezekiel bread with cream cheese, Everything Bagel spice, and a fried egg. By the time I was done making and eating it I had my first pretty painful contraction. I made a note of the time. It was 4:14 am.
From there I continued to have contractions every 10 minutes or so. I timed them as…4:23 am, 4:31 am (45 seconds in length), 4:41 am. Then I took a break to lay down thinking that would help but they were getting too painful to stay in bed. The next contraction I timed was 5:08 am, 5:19 am, and so on. I had called my mom by this point saying I think something’s happening but still unsure.
At 5:54 am I had three big gushes of water that soaked my underwear and trickled down my leg. I woke Ross up and told him my water just broke. He jumped out of bed and at 5:56 am I called the midwife to tell her I “think” I’m having contractions and I “think” my water just broke. She asked me if I thought it could be pee. I didn’t think so. She thought it would be a good idea for us to drive into Bozeman so she could check me and give me some herbs but we were on day 5 of a Montana snowstorm and Bozeman was an hour away. Since many first time labors are so long she didn’t seem too concerned, she told me to eat and lay back down. I tried but the contractions were getting a bit too intense. I waited until the sun rose to call again. By 7:30 am my contractions were every 5 minutes and I was on all fours moaning through them in the living room. I had Ross call her and once she heard my moans they were on the way.
The midwife, midwife assistant, and doula arrived by 8:45 am and I was already 8 centimeters dilated. I suppose the “I am going to get huge” mantra had supported me.
Ross, the midwife, and assistant went to work to prep the tub and birthing room while I labored in bed with the doula. Sarah, the doula, was a game-changing piece of the puzzle for me. I hung on her every word; how to lay, how to breathe, when to speed up my breath and when to slow down. The most helpful cue she gave was to stay on top of the contraction with my breath, to ride the peaks like a wave. I had complete tunnel vision for her voice and presence and while I knew there was a lot going on around me in the house, I clung to her presence with everything I had.
Laboring laying on the bed was more painful than on all fours on the floor but she said it would help conserve my energy. I would take sips of water here and there but nothing would stay down. I believe I was already going through transition at this time.
About an hour or so later, the tub was ready and it felt so good to immerse myself in the warm water. They had added geranium oil and it smelled sweet, Ross had placed out and lit the candles we bought, and he had set up the speakers and was playing some of our favorite songs. I remember stopping after one especially painful contraction and hearing our wedding song playing, Allison Krauss “When You Say Nothing At All.” I loved it.
Shortly after getting in the tub I was already feeling the pushing sensation but still couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I was already “there,” to that part of labor. I was staring into Sarah’s eyes unmoving as she directed me to make low grunting sounds if I had the sensation to push. I did. I asked the midwife, am I through transition? Is it pushing time? “Yes, it is! We can see his head.”
I pushed for 30 minutes or so and I felt like my body was ripping into two pieces. I especially remember feeling like he was going to come out of my butt. Heads up new mamas, apparently, this means the baby is very close to being born. After several deep pushes pulling on all of my reserves, I felt baby’s head slide out, then his shoulders, and body. He was on my chest; wet and warm, crying out immediately.
My initial feeling was of shock. I couldn’t believe my baby was in my arms. It was surreal and indescribable. I looked at Ross in true disbelief. I carried this baby with me for almost 10 months, I don’t think I should have been surprised he was here but at this moment it was the leading emotion. I thought, “I can’t believe I am holding my son. This is so crazy.”
We sat in the tub together, warm towels draped over him for 20 minutes or so while we let the umbilical cord pulse and I birthed the placenta. My baby was here. I had had the natural, unmedicated, gentle home birth I had dreamed of.
Right now, it is almost exactly 24 hours since I was sitting in a tub in this very room birthing my son.
It has been the most beautiful 24 hours…overflowing with love for my husband, this baby who chose us, the birth team who made it all possible and supported me in just the ways I needed, my body for its amazing capabilities, and for this new life we have co-created together.
I am so in love with you Cruz Michael Brown and truly honored, blessed, and grateful to be your mother.
I will love you every single day, every moment, of this beautiful, blessed life we now have together.