A Singing Birth
What a beautifully told birth! I am so grateful to share this story with so many lessons- It shows how important listening to our body is during the process. It shows how healing birth can be. It also points out how sometimes when midwifery is illegal, women are more prone to choose unassisted birth.
I want to tell the story of Émani's birth. My first birth experience. I find myself at a loss of where to begin, so I'll start with the facts.
We live in Québec, Canada, in a region where there is no birthing center. That means that midwives are not legally allowed to practice here... yet. So, I consider myself more than lucky to have found the two that agreed to help us, at considerable risk to themselves. The idea of birthing in the hospital was terrifying to me, and I knew that if I didn't listen to my instincts, I would have a potentially very traumatic experience, since I would not be relaxed enough to let things happen naturally. The last thing I wanted was intervention upon intervention, so I knew that my best shot at a natural birth was at home. So, until we found our two midwives, I had resolved myself to an unassisted homebirth, but am more than grateful that we had the help we did.
Émani was born on Sunday, September 18th, 2011 at 5:55PM. She was born after about 7 hours of labour. Though in actuality, I had pretty regular contractions as early as a month and a half before, which did a lot of the work. It took me some time to realize I was actually going into labour, because when the labour contractions started, I thought it was just really persistent gas pain. My earlier contractions had always caused visible movement in my uterus, but these were different, only causing pain in the lower abdomen. When I had managed to evacuate my stools and continued feeling the same pain, I started thinking that maybe they were contractions, so I called my midwife. This was around 11AM on Sunday. I then took my dog for a walk, and saw that the pain was very regular and intense enough to stop me from walking when it came, so I called my partner Martin home from work.
I gave birth to my daughter at home, with two midwives and my partner present, and birthed her in a birthing pool, though I only spent perhaps the last hour in the water. Up until I was fully dilated, I sang through my contractions in order to get through the intensity of the contractions, and it worked wonders: I barely felt any pain when I would push my voice in song, but if I didn't sing, I had trouble with the pain and would be writhing on my bed. I sang, I even danced, I rocked back and forth while on all fours with a big cushion under me... I did this for hours, but it only felt like ten minutes. It was a sunny day. I remember the light coming through the windows, and thinking my neighbours must be hearing my impromptu concert, but not caring, especially since it was daytime on a Sunday. The 2nd midwife arrived around 12:30 and started setting up, and a bit later in the afternoon, once the head midwife had arrived and they were all set up, she started massaging my lower back with a wonderful-smelling oil. At some point, Martin took over with the massaging. When the contractions were about 2 minutes apart, and suddenly more intense, and I felt a pushing on my rectum, that's when it started getting tough.
The 2nd midwife and Martin were massaging me at the same time, I started changing positions and could no longer sing through the pain. The 2nd midwife held me as I sat on an exercise ball, and Martin kept massaging me from behind. I held onto her and felt truly comforted, as if it was my mother holding me, only better, because my midwife had the calmness and confidence that my own mother might have lacked at seeing her daughter in pain like that. We switched positions several times at this point... from the futon, to the exercise ball, to the bed... When it was hard to focus on anything but the pain, and moaning through it, the head midwife suggested I go to the birth pool. I no longer wanted to move, let alone get in the water, but when she said it would be good if I changed positions, I agreed to go in the water, and right away felt a relief from the lack of gravity. Martin got in with me and was my rock through this last phase. The head midwife suggested I squat and hold onto Martin's neck... as soon as I did, the next contraction brought a real push... my whole body bearing down without me really having much of a say. That's when it really started to burn, so I knew and hoped that I was close. It's also the point where I got really loud again, though this time, I wasn't singing at all anymore.
I knew that when it burns is when you can tear, so I listened to my body with all the reverence and respect possible. When a contraction brought on that sensation of bearing down, I listened, and worked with it. Often, the next contraction would be different, telling me to just breathe through it, if I didn't want to tear. I did my own vaginal exams at this point (before I had refused the only one that had been offered, to check if I was dilated at 10, I responded that if I felt it pushing on my rectum, I didn't doubt that I was, and didn't need to know; my midwife respected this), showing the midwives with my finger how far away was the head (I was surprised to feel that from my first exam, there was about only an inch or so to go before her head would be out). Through the waves of bearing down and breathing contractions, there was a back and forth that lasted longer than I would have liked, but which I am sure is the reason I didn't tear my perineum. After what seemed like forever... with a burning that was barely tolerable, her head crowned. I was on all fours at this point, and with the next few contractions, her head was out... and with it, a hand. It was burning so terribly, and the midwife intervened here to put her hand back in and help the baby get her shoulder out instead at the next contraction. It was really painful at this point, but I just gave it all I had, and pushed despite the burning pain.
Out came the shoulder, then the next one, and then the rest slid out easily, and it was over! I couldn't believe it... The midwife took my baby out of the water and helped me step over the cord to put her on me after seeing her cry and turn from purple to pink right before my eyes. I was on another planet... like in shock, but not traumatic shock. My baby was alive and healthy! And outside of me! Émani and I had done it! Émani had an apgar of 9-10 out of 10. We got out of the water quickly after the birth, as the water was getting too cold, and transferred to my bed. There, I used the techniques learned in hypnosis to stay relaxed and patient while I received about 40 minutes worth of stitches under local anaesthetic (hypnosis was completely out the window during the actual labour)... my daughter's hand had scratched the inside of the vaginal wall, and torn a piece half off... so it required a lot of stitches to put it back into place to heal successfully. I gotta say, after giving birth, the last thing I felt like doing was having anyone touch me down there; but they did a great job. We weighed her some time after the stitches: 7lbs 12 oz.
Émani is a little miracle... I can't believe she exists. Deep down, I was scared to believe that she could actually be there... I was afraid of a still-birth or some sort of complication during labour that would take her away from me... I've miscarried before, and this was my first full-term pregnancy, so it was difficult to imagine. I wanted to believe, but I was scared of loss. Now that she's here, I can't stop admiring her, and feeling like the luckiest person in the world. I have a beautiful daughter. I love her, love her father and love life. And I feel like I can accomplish anything. I couldn't have had a better birth experience, save perhaps for the need for stitches, but that is minor. Overall, it was beautiful and amazing. I couldn't have had a better team either. Our two midwives are angels. I am deeply grateful.