My waters broke at 11:30 on May 29 and strong surges began about 40 minutes later. I was taken aback by how strong they were. I had imagined that labour would begin more gently and gradually progress. Boy was I in for a surprise!
Around 1 am, I called my midwife, Chris, and she said, “Well, it sounds like you’re coping well…if you’re happy to labour at home, just give me another call when you’re ready to come to the Birth Centre.” I didn’t feel that I was coping well at all as I’d gotten it into my head that if I were “doing it right” I wouldn’t feel *any* pain (!), but her sensible & calm attitude helped me get into a better headspace and I spent the next couple of hours breathing & chanting.
We headed off to the Birth Centre around 3 am. The Birth Centre felt really welcoming and familiar as we’d gone there so often for antenatal check-ups and classes.
I still felt that something was “wrong,” that I “shouldn’t” be feeling what to my mind was only describable as pain! Eventually I worked through this and came to the realization that pain can be fine and normal and just as valid a sensation as any other – regardless of what you call it.
I had visualized myself being much more active during labour but it turned out I didn’t have the desire to move around much. I loved the bath as soon as I got in and didn’t want to get out, so I just lolled about in the water for most of the time. Towards the end, Rinch pouring warm water over my back felt marvellous and helped tone down the sharpness of the surges.
My midwife Chris said to me, “Push INTO the sensation.” I’d been pulling away, almost mentally flinching at the crest of each surge. When I pushed into the sensation, it immediately became a lot more intense, but at the same time more bearable, because I felt powerful and in control. I still felt the pain, but it lost relevance. I was entirely focused on bringing my baby into the world.
I think it was after that I went deeply into labourland and started talking to the baby. I was calling to him, telling him that everything was all right, perfect, and we were doing it together. I kept saying, “Baby, baby, baby.” With all the possible mantras, in the end that one word was all I needed! I knew Sebu could hear me and I felt completely connected to him.
“Yes” was my other mantra; after a really big surge I started saying, “Yes!”, encouraging Sebu and supporting him. Rinch and I often talked about what the experience of birth might be like from the baby’s point of view and I didn’t want him to be frightened or confused any more than necessary….so I kept talking to him and that gave me a lot of energy.
Finally the surges became so strong that I thought I was being split apart. The sensation moved lower, I guess I was feeling the baby’s head actually coming out, but I had no idea at the time! I pushed into the sensation with all my energy. I felt like I was running out of energy, and I knew if he didn’t come soon I couldn’t keep going, so I put every ounce of energy into each surge like it was the last….but then it wasn’t the last! I kept myself from getting discouraged by saying to the baby, “That was good, one more, again, we can do it….”
Then finally the baby’s head was out, under the water. Suddenly Chris said, “Get up Antonia, get your bum out of the water!” (She told me afterwards it was because they didn’t want to touch the baby while he was still under water, in case it triggered the breathing reflex.) So I hopped up and put my hands on the wall and pushed into the white-hot center of the sensation with everything I had. I felt a burning, knife-edge sensation, but then the next moment I heard a loud, strong baby’s cry! I turned around and there he was – it was surreal, like, “Where did this baby come from?” He looked like a little alien who had suddenly beamed into the room.
Rinch put him in my arms and he stopped crying immediately and looked deeply into my eyes. That was the best moment of my life.
During the birth I wondered why I was feeling pain. I had a hard time letting go of the notion that if I did everything “right” I would have a calm, painless birth. However, that’s not the birth that I needed or that I got (although according to Rinch I actually did look very calm!). What I learned from giving birth is that I am not afraid of pain. Not only that, but I can choose to embrace intense sensations in order to get on with the job. This might sound prosaic, but it was a huge revelation for me and absolutely blew apart a lot of unquestioned beliefs. I am capable of enormous love & strength, and it fills me with wonder to know that about myself.
Birthing my baby was the most empowering experience I’ve ever had. The closest thing I can liken the experience to was drinking ayahuasca in Peru. With that, the fear & discomfort were an essential part of my experience, but those were gone the next day and what remained was a spiritual awakening that continued to unfold over many months. Birth was like that for me – the physical sensations were intense at the time, and that helped to ground me and keep me in the moment, but it’s not like it hurts to remember it! On the contrary, I love thinking about it and I often talk about it with Sebu. Our relationship is so special. Normally you get to know someone first and then build trust, but we trusted each other completely from the beginning. It was a big thing we did together.
Moving into the present, Sebu has been a really easy & lovely person to include in our lives.
He sleeps in our bed with us and I dreamfeed him a couple of times during the night. In the morning I often open my eyes to find him gazing at me and smiling. He loves to take warm showers and baths which is no surprise seeing as he was a waterbaby. We wear him in a wrap or mei tai for most of the day but he also enjoys lying on his back and talking to people…he is very chatty and was mimicking sounds from 8 weeks….Rinch’s mum started crying the first time he said “hello” to her (although he appears to think “hello” can be used to mean anything he wants it to).
Doing the calmbirth course was one of the best decisions possible and I recommend it all the time. The other day I was asked to come and speak with expectant families at the Birth Centre and I made sure to point them in your direction (a few had already done the course which was great to hear). For our next baby I’d like to redo the course as I think I’d get even more out of it now that I’ve experienced birth. Thank you so much Tracey….you are doing really important work and I am so grateful we found you.
Thanks again and lots of love from us 3.