By Angela Gallo, Australia
After a particularly trying week, emotions were running high and that familiar late pregnancy impatience set in with a vengeance. I wasn’t sleeping much, and neither was RJ. Poor cricket certainly felt the strong pull of impending change in the home. At 41.3 weeks, I woke up at around 5 am on Saturday morning with intense feelings of period type pain and heaviness, concentrated at the front of my tummy. Couldn’t seem to sleep through them, so I gave up and made my way to the coffee machine. Quick pit stop to the bathroom revealed a bloody show, and even then, I refused to believe I was in labour. (Denial really is your best friend in labour!) I dilly dallied around the kitchen, cleaning and keeping busy. At this stage, 9 am-ish, the pesky surges began to intensify, coming every 5 minutes. I got in touch with our photographer and doula (both coming from 2 hours away) and they decided to make their way over. The sun was shining, everything about the air was sweet & beautiful. Ben and I spent the next little while setting up our labour space, filling up the pool, starting the fire, hanging my birthing necklace & affirmations. I felt so at peace, so right, and so comfortable. By 11 o’clock I was in active labour. My marvellous support team showed up, and I in the thick of contractions. There was no more denying this was the real deal. I felt physically strong, and fairly confident in managing each intense feeling. I delved deeper and deeper into my own world, focusing on my conscious effort to experience a true physiological birth; so different then my first 45 hour labour. I made sure I had everything I could control, working in my favour. I wanted oxytocin flowing high, to enable my body to function optimally, with little help from my brain. Oh my – how challenging for a control freak like me; to surrender to such an unstoppable force. No small feat, believe me.
The swirls of energy; beaming through my pelvis, striking through my sacrum like a furiously feminine force of nature. Hard, fast. No way to stop this train, no other option but to plow forward. I felt strong and safe, knowing I was in my home, with people who sincerely loved me. My husband, my daughter, my best friend, my dog, my doula and photographer. It gave me silent confidence I would be okay. I had no specific birth plan, other than ‘going with the flow’. I planned for the worst, and expected the best. To do with whatever felt right at the time. To tap into the energy of millennia of birthing women who came before me, and hope all would be revealed at the time. I checked my cervix a few times throughout the day, (more of an experiment and to seek out a personal confidence in knowing my own body), only to confirm I was fully dilated, and my body HAD been doing everything it was supposed to. How amazingly empowering it was to feel my own body, to understand, to be the hand to feel those incredible changes. Transition was imminent, and I knew because of the most intense wave of weakness, vulnerability, and self doubt I have ever experienced in my life. I was wide open, and so was my soul. Cracked like an egg, at the mercy of mother nature. I felt exhausted, like I needed rescuing, like I needed DRUGS NOW. Again, all extremely typical sentiments of transition and I knew this because of my line of work. But how different when you are in the drivers seat!
I decided to attempt a drive to the hospital, not once, but twice. Not because I even wanted to birth in hospital, but because at that moment, my fears of dying (again, very common in transition) gave me a silent push to find a ‘safe’ space before baby could be born. But alas, being in a car, with the surges I was having, made me panic and collapse under anxiety. I decided to call an ambulance as they have more room in their truck, and could get to hospital quicker. The ambulance drivers ended up being both intrusive and insensitive, and the ride to hospital filled with absurd questions that made me want to kick someone in the head. Surge after surge, I felt baby descend into my canal and I held on, knowing there was no way in hell I could give birth in an ambulance with two people who had zero appreciation of birth, combined with an obsession of medicalised philosophy.
We got to Frankston hospital where I was greeted by gorgeous midwives who left me to labour with my wonderful husband. Just wait for Julie & Lacey to arrive, I thought. And so they did, and after the most physically challenging, gruelling, insane, ecstatic, 10 minutes (yes, 10 minutes!!) of my life – I felt my first moment of total surrender. At first I was scared, I thought I would rip in two. And then it clicked – this was my moment. The moment I so loved to witness when I am a part of some other warrior woman’s birth circle. This was my moment and I best enjoy it. I felt a click, an acceptance. With a few mega powerful, involuntary movements, the fire in my belly pushed out the most perfect baby boy I have ever seen.
With eyes of an old man, and hair of a stallion.
My husband sobbed, so much, his face shook. He says that contrary to our first birth experience, this time he felt connected. So connected to me, and to the experience, that he felt he birth this baby with me. My arms wrapped around him, the pull of devotion locking us. We marvelled at this little persons face. Excuse my language, but I just couldn’t fucking believe it. I did it. I felt it. All those feelings I so desperately wanted to feel. And I experienced every single one of them. My fears slipped away into another world, and I lay there in tears. So proud. So happy. Another level of woman. My midwives were so kind, so wonderful, and exactly on the same page as me. I didn’t need to fight for anything.
I was seriously blessed with the most perfect birth journey ever, and I am bowing down to the universe for this one. I plan on riding this high for as long as I can… My experience has reaffirmed my beliefs, and polished my passions for choices in childbirth. High quality of maternal care, real options, beautiful people with the right intentions, continuity of care, sincere smiles, unwavering support, transparency and compassion – this is what I want for ALL women. Because we deserve it, and our children do, too. It’s made me a better Doula, a better person, a better mother, and a better partner. If there is anything I can pass on… Never underestimate the power of your labour & birth experience. It shapes you, changes you, whether you admit it or not. And it IS worth the effort, and it IS worth the fight.
Angela Gallo (WombWarrior) is a Melbourne based Birth Doula & Birth Photographer. She is currently making a book about her adventures around the world (please see the trailer below). Learn and see more at AngelaGallo.com