The amazingly talented midwife who delivered my son was recently banned from the largest hospital in our area. In short, she supported the wishes of a mother of of 9 in making her own informed and educated choice during the birth of her 10th child. The ban has eliminated a wise and valuable resource for birthing mothers in the region.
In her honor, I'm posting the story of my first birth experience...
Rowan was due to arrive on our five-year wedding anniversary—October 6, 2006. I had experienced a blissful pregnancy (after the initial morning sickness, which was more all-day sickness, things could not have been better) and felt like the fertility goddess that I was! A few weeks before my due date my midwive, Laurice, suggested I start visualizing how I’d like the birth to progress. Every night I imagined calmly leaving the house, laboring on the birth ball, walking the halls, soaking in the whirlpool for pain management, and eventually welcoming a lovely child into this world. Of course, I knew birth is unpredicatable, but it couldn’t hurt to labor with intention.
Appointments with Laurice in those weeks preceding the birth experience were comforting, energizing, and exciting. Growing closer and closer to the moment when this little life would be carried in my arms rather than in my womb was bittersweet. And knowing I would have a woman with such beautiful energy, capable and loving hands, and firey spirit laboring with me was a touchstone.
On Wednesday the 4th, I was 3-1/2 centimeters dilated and Laurice said she thought I would probably go before the weekend was out. I was sure I would go into labor on my due date. Not only did the date have personal meaning, but the full moon was on the rise that night, too. I took the day off of work and spent my time centering and enjoying the autumn weather. Mike and I walked down by the river in the Lehigh Gorge and took is slow, just waiting for something to happen.
I thought, maybe, I was feeling little flutters of contractions. But, then again, it might have been gas. And so we waited. The 6th came and went, as did the 7th and the 8th. I walked, I rode the swing in the park, I had sex, I ate lobster francaise (perported to send women directly into labor), I nearly bathed myself in clary sage oil. I still suspected I was feeling small and very irregular contractions, but I couldn’t be sure. My mother told me I’d be sure when I felt a real contraction. Of course, she was right.
The following Wednesday October 12th, Laurice said the baby was very low and we should see some regular contractions soon. She was right, too. At 3:30pm that day we were able to start timing the light contractions. By 7:00pm, I knew I was having contractions! We continued to time the waves, but they never lasted very long. At 8:30pm, I went to the bathroom to relieve myself and yelled to my husband Mike that we should probably go to the hospital since I felt like pushing while sitting on the toilet.
We finally made it to Sacred Heart Hospital around 9:50pm. It was a busy night. Although we had hoped to have the whirlpool suite, it was already occupied. The nurses told us there were already five women in labor. As it turned out, the suite would have been wasted on us anyway. By 10:50, I was eight centimeters dilated and Laurice ruptured my waters. By 11:30pm I was in active labor.
There is very little I remember clearly about the birth. I remember riding the waves of contractions up and down. I remember being so focused in I couldn’t tell you what the room or the nurses looked like. I remember feeling most comfortable on my hands and knees. I remember my husband’s strong hands anchoring me to the earth while the rest of me floated somewhere in the ocean of birth. I remember the overwhelming feeling my clothes and the sheets had against my skin and insisting both go away and stay away. I remember believing in my heart of hearts that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t birth this baby . I remember locking eyes with Laurice and not letting them go and I remember her saying, “Yes you can. Now push!”
He slid warmly from my body at 12:08am October 13, 2006. Laurice untangled his arm and his cord from around his neck and told me to reach down and get my baby. I pulled him onto my belly and had my first clear thought in hours, “He is so much bigger than I imagined he would be.” And that he was. Rowan Michael Evans was nine pounds, one ounce and 21-1/2 inches long. I had been at the hospital for just over two hours and had given birth to a beautiful baby boy without pain medicine, without an episiotomy, and without tearing at all. Mike cut the cord and stayed skin-to-skin with Rowan while they weighed and measured him just out of my reach. A half hour after he was born, Rowan was suckling contentedly at my breast, I was surrounded by my mother, my father, my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, my sister and my brother-in-law, and I couldn’t imagine what life was like before that moment.
The birth may not have looked like what I had envisioned all those nights leading up to the event, but the key elements were there. The things that mattered happened just as I had hoped. It was a rite of passage for mama, papa, and baby, and we had a wise and wonderful guide.
You can read more about the specific incident that caused the ban and the continuing saga at Knitted in the Womb.