My youngest son, DC turns two years old on Sunday. DC is someone that plays by his own rules, and no manner of chiding, begging, or bribing will make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. There is a great deal of academic debate on the topic of nature vs nurture in determining the character and personality of an individual, but I have the opinion that most of who we are, and how we behave is derivative of nature. DC is so diametrically different in demeanor from his more timid and acquiescent brother, that sometimes I wonder how they can be related.
Personalities aside, his birth, as is often the case, was indicative of his determined and independent personality. Days before my due date, my parents drove up from Florida to help with soon-to-be older brother Nash for when the time came for me to leave for the hospital. Life was fairly unchanged, my pregnancy had been relatively uneventful, and I was able to run, work and sleep normally. On the night I went into labor, my husband Sam left for an overnight work conference. Thankfully it was in Atlanta where we live. I spent the evening with my parents re-watching old episodes of Game of Thrones as they caught up on Jon Snow’s influence over the Wildlings, and then went to bed. I remember feeling extremely alert and having trouble falling asleep, but around 11 pm, I finally did. Around 1 am, I woke up with strong cramps, and I knew DC had decided to make his appearance while his father was away for the night at a conference. I was beginning to know DC. Nash’s birth had taken exactly eight hours, so I knew I had time.
I called Sam and he, in his quintessential, easy-going manner, said “Ok, tell me when your water breaks and I’ll leave.” (We naively thought this birth would go exactly as Nash’s had, where the water breaking with him had signaled us to leave.) I went downstairs and turned on the TV which woke up my concerned parents. I told them to go back to bed and rest because labor had just started and we wouldn’t need to leave the house for a few more hours. Unsurprisingly, both of them stayed with me and we decided the best course of action was to finish the Game of Thrones marathon. Finally, the contractions had become powerful enough to warrant a drive to the hospital, even though my water still hadn’t broken like it had with Nash. Since Sam was staying overnight at the conference hotel, my dad took me, and luckily we had just skirted the infamous Atlanta morning traffic. There were a lot of vehicles on the road despite the early hour, and the winter sky was still dark.
When we arrived at the hospital, my dad ran towards the Labor and Delivery entrance to see if we could enter there, or be forced to go through the main ER entrance because it was so early. While I waited for him, I texted my sisters, who both immediately texted me back with words of encouragement, solidarity, and love. I felt as if they were in the car with me, comforting and guiding me along. Soon my dad was running back to the car and leading me out of the cold and into Labor and Delivery. At 6:30 am we checked-in at the hospital, and I was given a comfortable room, fitted with a large birthing pool. The midwife asked if I wanted to wait to fill the pool, and warned that warm water will sometimes delay the progress of the labor. I smiled, and politely asked her to fill it up–there was no way I would forgo the absolute bliss and relief from the pain that the warm water would give me.
The midwife and nurses came in periodically to check the unborn baby’s vitals, acknowledging that all was well. Sam arrived at the hospital around 9:30 am on January 29th, after not escaping the aforementioned traffic. DC was born an hour later in the birthing pool and as soon as the cold air touched him, he cried out loud and strong. I know that I was waiting for Sam to arrive in order to give birth, and I still jokingly rebuke him for extending what would have been a perfectly fast and easy labor because he had work obligations. DC came into the world happy and healthy, and we knew that our family was complete. Later in the day, my parents brought Nash in to visit us, and upon seeing them, I burst into tears. I broke down, not from the exhaustion or the hormonal crash (which is very real) but because some of the most important people in my life, individuals whom I love the most, were all in the same room–every one of them feeling this intense, palpable love for this newest member of the family. It was a moment that I’ll never forget, and I’m so glad I wasn’t hooked up to a machine or on any drugs, so that I was able to experience it with absolute clarity of mind and spirit.
If you have been thinking about having a natural birth, here is what made mine possible:
1. Meditation: My reliance on meditation carried me through the continuous waves of pain. I focused only on my breath, and imagined the safe delivery of my baby. I trusted in my body and the process, and knew that I would be fine. I never allowed fearful thoughts to take over, even when it was hard for me to catch my breath, and I felt utterly exhausted. I treated the pain like a friend, knowing that every time another contraction occurred, it was one less that I had to endure, and one step closer to meeting my baby.
2. Use a Birthing Pool: The warm birthing pool was essential for keeping me comfortable and allowed me to easily change positions as needed. I spent almost the entire second half of my labor in the pool. My husband would bring water and a cold washcloth when I’d start to get too warm, but the pain was substantially lessened by the presence of the warm water.
3. Music and Lighting: The power of music on the mind and psyche is amazing. For the birth I chose a mix of whale sounds and tribal drumming. Something about feeling totally immersed in the rhythm that these two genres provided helped my go to a completely other place mentally, and made the time fly by. Also, we had the lights off, with just a warmly lit bedside lamp on. Instinctually, it made me feel safer as opposed to blaring fluorescent lights beaming down on me.
4. Hire a Doula: With my firstborn Nash, I made sure to have someone in the room that had seen a hundred natural births, and knew what to expect. My doula’s name was Charlotte, and she was an angel. Her sole purpose was to be there for me, provide massage, pour water on my back, and suggest different positions that would help the baby descend better. It was like having a coach, psychologist, and calming presence in the room all at once. I didn’t have a doula for DC, and it is something I’ll always regret.
5. Snacks: I got through the birth by drinking water, Gatorade, and eating little bites of protein bars, nuts and yogurt. Your body expends so much energy during this process, it absolutely needs to refuel, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.