While pregnant, I made a list of seven positive affirmations to read during labor. But the list never made it to the Midwife Center with me; I forgot it on my nightstand.
As I read through it now, the affirmations have gotten me to reflect realistically about some things.
I know you know all about labor and delivery because you went through it four times, but if you were sitting here with me now, I’d share this list with you.
And besides, I enjoy reading other people’s stories about having their babies–maybe that’s weird (Chris obviously thinks so) but I’m going for it anyways.
your only job is to relax:
It is true that your job during labor is to relax–you have to let your cervix dilate. But when I wrote that affirmation, I didn’t know that I would dilate so absolutely slow. I didn’t know that when the midwives went to check my dilation every few hours, I’d have to lay on my back on the bed, with pillows under my hips to elevate my bottom. And then have Dia’s fingers all up in me in between painful contractions.
Dia was the one midwife during all my prenatal appointments that I felt a connection with. She had long, beautiful weaved braids and such a funny, soft and calming yet assertive energy. I couldn’t believe she was the one on call when I finally went into labor.
I remember when they wanted to do the 6cm check (labor really started to intensify at this point), I hurried up and got on my back and just literally spread myself open saying, “Hurry hurry, check now before another wave starts again.” I had no shame–I don’t think any laboring woman does.
And how can you possibly relax when you start pushing and your delivery crew tells you that the baby’s heart rate is dropping and you need to get him/her out NOW? You can’t. At least I couldn’t. I was focused like never before in my life, but I don’t think relaxed would be the correct word. The only time I was truly relaxed was in the very beginning of labor. I actually wrote about it in my journal.
April 1, 2016
It’s about 3:30 in the morning and I’m pretty sure this is the birthday of our baby! I’ve had waves of contractions–good and steady ones–since about 11:30 p.m. I took a bath and had some bloody show which is a good sign. I’ve tried to rest but it’s hard.
Chris is fully dressed downstairs with Clifford–he’s worried the baby is coming now, but I still have time. My mind isn’t concentrated yet on getting through the contractions, so I know they are still in the beginning stages. Here comes one now.
I called Allison and told her to start making her drive up from Ohio.
Oh the next hours–what awaits ahead! My baby will be here! And I’ll write the name in my next entry.
And I did write his name in my next entry–that was the start of my book to you.
contractions will never be stronger than you can handle—they are your body:
This one is very true. I know I could handle everything that happened because well, I did. And if I would’ve been in a hospital, I think without a doubt that I would have gotten an epidural, even if it wasn’t my original intention. I also know it’s quite possible I would’ve had a c-section after laboring so long and Everett’s heart rate dropping.
Absolutely nothing would have been wrong with an epidural or c-section. NOTHING.
I just know that having the opportunity to have a natural birth completely altered my life–any birthing experience would, but the one I had was MINE and I would not change anything about it. I wouldn’t change how scary it was towards the end, I wouldn’t change how confident I was my whole pregnancy about delivering. I wouldn’t even change Everett’s transfer to the hospital.
I don’t want to sound selfish or like an uncaring mother when I say that. But the reality is, I can’t change it, only accept it and embrace it and learn from it. And I have.
Saying all of this to you now makes me realize how different I am from the girl who wrote those affirmations. No doubt now, I am a woman. I am a mother. And oh how good it feels to say that to you.
I know what I am capable of now, thanks to everything that happened. It was the most empowering experience of my life, besides learning how to live without you.
labor means the baby is coming! do not get scared:
I can honestly say I didn’t feel scared. In the beginning phase before labor got really intense, I was calm and excited and confident. In the middle phase when I just felt exhausted and wanted to end it all, I was mad and so pissed for not having an epidural and in complete denial that I was only about halfway dilated. In the end phase, right before delivery, I nodded off into space between contractions, so I wasn’t feeling scared then either–I wasn’t really feeling anything.
It’s amazing what our bodies can do to protect us. My mind took me out of the physical and held me in a safer space. This is where the old tale happens, about women leaving their bodies during labor, going to the stars, collecting the souls of their babies, and returning to this world together.
I know I’ve told you that tale/quote before, but it’s too sweet not to write again. I like to think I came and got Everett from you, who safely held him until I could.
And during delivery, there was no time to be scared. Not a second for it. I’ve never been so focused in my life–not a single thing entered my mind besides get this baby out get this baby out now now now you have to. If I started to think oh my god what is happening is the baby okay my baby my baby when the midwives would pick up worry in their voices, I would quickly snap out of it and come right back into my body, only to focus on seeing that baby out of me.
trust, trust, trust: the whole process is going to be beautiful:
I know some women have beautiful pregnancies and beautiful births–I’ve seen the photographs and the videos and read and heard the stories. There was not one thing about my birth that I’d call beautiful, but I did have a good pregnancy. I looked and felt super healthy and I’m grateful for that. And my husband made me feel beautiful, even when big and round and full of both baby and an entire eaten pineapple. Pineapple was my favorite.
For hours and hours and hours, up until right before I delivered, I felt weak and incapable and questioned whether or not I could do it all. But at the point when labor was coming to an end and delivery was to shortly follow, I knew what I had gotten through so far, so I knew I could finish. And I knew I couldn’t fight or resist anymore; I closed my eyes, tilted my head back in that tub and just let go.
I was in the tub, only wearing a black minimal sports bra. My long hair was pulled back in a big sweaty messy bun at the top of my head. My belly was round and sticking out of the water, full of the baby we’d get to meet so soon. I was exposed and vulnerable but strong and surrendered.
And that is beautiful.
Shortly after, I was out of the water and standing naked over the toilet, throwing up and trickling pee from the force, all while having a contraction.
That wasn’t beautiful.
be strong so your baby’s journey is as easeful as possible:
I think I did my part on being strong. But his end journey was not easy. Shoulder dystocia and a wrapped and ripped cord and trouble breathing upon entering the world is very short of easeful.
But he was strong too. And that’s because he’s my son and your grandson.
get into your breath, do your thing:
I thought I would be a warrior because of all my yoga experience–not only in terms of physical strength but the magical meditative breath. My breath helped me a few times here and there but I was not able to get into a trance and pop the baby out. I really believed I could do that before I actually got to try.
I don’t doubt that some women do and I give them all the credit in the world.
mom is with you:
You know, it’s funny. I thought I would think of you every minute during labor or at least feel you. But I didn’t. My focus had no space for your presence.
But I do remember while pushing and things were intense, they were turning me from my side, to my back, to my belly, all in efforts of helping Everett breathe in there. During one of those “beautiful” butt naked transitions (well, I still had on that black sports bra), I felt my left thumb finger wrap inwards and over my ring finger, squeezing together and touching my engagement ring.
This ring of course, was your engagement ring. The only time I ever really heard about your birth experience with me, you told me about looking down at the ring when things got difficult and would think of how much you loved Daddy (you always said Daddy when talking about him in the past tense even though I never call him that) and it gave you strength.
It was only for a split second, and I mean split second, but my when thumb touched that ring, I thought Mom Mom Mom..the ring..my birthday..strength. It was when I was turning from my back to my side and I was so confused–I could’ve been upside down for all I knew. But I felt you then, like the most sudden and strong thought I’d ever had and as soon as you came, you were gone.
Well I don’t think you were gone, but you left my mind, giving me the space to concentrate on what I needed to do.
I think these affirmations are wonderful and I’ll probably encourage Allison to write some down when she’s pregnant. My original intention for them was to help me during labor, but I can see now after this conversation, that they were supposed to help me after.
All these months later, I can say I feel content and proud about how I had Everett. I feel like I probably had an experience like a lot of other mothers out there, even though everyone who heard about it was in absolute shock.
This is crazy, but I feel “ready” for the next delivery. I can’t even believe I said that. But if I was pregnant with the second and today was my due date, I’d feel like, okay let’s do this.
I guess that’s why women have more than one baby: our bodies heal us, allow us to forget the physical pain, and only keep the memory of meeting our sweet sweet angel from the stars for the first time.