The moon at the time of Uma’s birth was nearing fullness. Of course, the moon, which has influenced many a woman’s labor over the thousands of years of birthing, played a strong role in my birth experience. Two weeks before the “due date,” my husband had gone out to Los Angeles to surprise his dad for his 60th birthday. I said he may not get the chance to see his dad for a long time and things weren’t going to happen with the birth for a while. I was so wrong.
I started contractions the day after he left. It’s a good thing Meredith was so gently firm about telling him to come back because he caught the last flight out that would have allowed him to come home and help get the last minute stuff done and sleep the tiniest bit before the birth. All in all, I had over two days of contractions.
On the night of the full moon, I found them growing stronger. I wavered in that early time, not sure I could handle them, feeling them getting away from me. It was at that point that there came into my mind the image of a river. I lay down in the river and let the water rush over me, the rhythm of the water becoming the rhythm of the contraction. I felt on top of the contractions again and able to breathe using the river’s rhythm. A few hours later, the contractions got to to the point that I needed to start making noise to get inside them, some low moans. Twice I felt nauseated and threw up in the bathroom during contractions. My husband woke up from hearing me and started timing them. It was around 3:15 in the morning and the contractions were steadily four minutes apart. I got up again to throw up, and, while doing so, my water broke. My husband called Meredith who said she was on her way.
I’m not sure when Janelle showed up (Janelle herself nearing the end of her pregnancy with baby Ami), but Meredith arrived around four or a bit after. They filled the birth tub. I was in bed all that time. I thought to myself that I could be in for another day at this intensity. I wasn’t sure I could handle that, but I needed to focus to breathe through the contractions and use my visualization so I put my mind to the present moment. I was proud of myself for snapping myself out of it; surely the preparation and midwifery care were key.
At some point I got out of bed because I couldn’t lie down any more. The contractions were definitely strong at this point and close together. Now, I was visualizing a wave with my focus on the crest, staying on top of that crest while the power of the wave of water propelled me ahead. I thought to myself “Open.” “Release.” I didn’t think about getting in the tub yet. Instead, I needed my husband to hold me tight so I could hang a bit while we swayed and I moaned (more loudly and longer all the time). He was giving me coconut water to drink on and off to keep hydrated and energized. Those little bursts of flavor felt so nourishing, exactly what I needed. I couldn’t ask for them though; it just wasn’t on my mind, so I am grateful that he was there to support me and keep those things in mind so I could focus on my visualization, breathing and mantras.
I remember thinking that what I felt was not pain, that it was intense, but I could handle it so it must be that the really hard stuff hadn’t come yet. I remember feeling so grateful to be in my home and wondering why anyone would go to the hospital. I also remember asking Meredith and my husband if I was doing the right thing. It was soon after that, during one of the contractions, that I felt a shift. A sudden urge to bear down and push came over me. I thought, “Wow, this is early to feel like pushing.” I asked Meredith if it was alright for me to feel like pushing so early in the process. No one had checked me and told me how far along I was-- I never got one vaginal exam, for which I am deeply grateful -- but Meredith said to go with what my body was telling me. She must have known from experience what my sounds were telling her.
Around that point someone asked if I wanted to get in the tub. That helped, but things were really intense here because I was starting to feel like pushing at the end of the contractions. That was overwhelming, the urge to push, but that burning was the first thing nearing pain that I had felt so far. I wanted to take it slow because tearing was the one thing I had wanted to avoid, so I would push and back off.
All this time, Janelle was checking Uma’s heartbeat with the Doppler, and she was going strong. Meredith was really more present with me through this part in just the way I needed, just as she left me to labor alone earlier. I could sense her and hear her support. Somewhere in me I felt safe and able to let go because I knew and trusted that she was there for me and my baby. At some point, Meredith said I could reach down and feel the head. This was real! I was so happy!
The pushing had just begun though. This was the hardest part. At one point, I looked out the window and saw that it was getting light outside. The sun was rising, and the full moon was still in the sky. In those special celestial moments, Uma was still crowning. Meredith wanted me to push out her head so her heart rate didn’t stay lowered too long from the pressure. So, I pushed as hard as I could bear while she helped the head come out. I felt such relief from that pressure, but with the next urge I was back to pushing again and out came the body. I was overwhelmed with what I had just done and kept saying, “I did it! I can’t believe I did it!” I was transported. I felt such strong love for her, to hold her after all that time.
I got out of the tub and into bed in about five steps. How glorious for my baby to be born in our very own bedroom where we were surrounded by home with all its comforts. Gopinath cut the umbilical cord, a thick thing! Uma nursed within an hour of birth. The midwives left to give us some time as a new family to love each other up. Meredith took Uma after about an hour and a half to weigh and measure and do all the little reflex checks right in our bed. The midwives cleaned up. Randy brought us much needed food. The midwives hugged us and departed not nearly as long after their arrival as anyone might have expected -- a four hour birth! After they left we all slept for six hours--our first family nap!
My spirit swells with joy and gratitude for the whole blessed experience, from pregnancy to birth. I am grateful to my husband for being my calm, steady, and yet barely detectable rock and for believing in me deep down to his core. I know I felt that confidence and that it fed my own. I am grateful to Meredith. Her consistent, calm confidence in me, in birth itself, made my journey through miscarriage, pregnancy, and birth free of fear and doubt...truly joyous and the deep spiritual journey I wished for! Indeed I am grateful to my entire support team: Janelle for being my birth preparation coach and cheerleader. Each person allowed me to find my own way with no intervention or interruption. Through the care Meredith and Janelle gave me throughout pregnancy, birth and postpartum visits emails and phone calls, they respected me and my baby as the reflections of divinity that we represent. They respected the birth process for the deep, natural and spiritual journey of transformation that is. Thanks to them, my birth experience is a cherished gift that will keep on giving.