Written & Shared by Samantha Perkel, New Jersey
Photos by Natalia Baechtol & Edited by Jane McCrae, Australia
Thank you Samantha for sharing your birth story with Orgasmic Birth after taking Debra’s Birth Doula Workshop. Thank you Jane McCrae, featured photographer in Pain to Power Online Childbirth Classes, for sharing photos from your own, personal Blessingway here. Thank you all for enjoying this warm story and accompanying photos, merging continents & traditions.
The story…. Starting at about 36 weeks or so I began often mentioning to Shmueli (my partner) how I really wanted to have a Blessingway before I gave birth, just as I did in Israel when I was pregnant with my first born, Tsofia. We were now living in the States for several years and at 37 weeks pregnant we moved from the Upper West Side to a house in Englewood, NJ. At 38 weeks, after nesting and hurriedly setting up our new space, I decided I better plan the Blessingway or else I may not get to have it before the baby is born. I invited my 5 closest friends and 2 sisters but since it was so last minute, only 3 people could make it out, unless I decided to wait til the Monday after (instead of Thursday the week before). Although I said I probably wouldn’t have a baby before Monday, it didn’t feel right to push it off and I decided it would be really special to have 3 of my best friends join me for it – Chana, Suzanne and Robin. (P.S. Robin was also my doula).
So we planned the evening as follows…. We would connect through some story sharing and do some birth art (painting mason jars as candle holders, with inspirational words on them, create a bowl with intentional rocks, and more), order in dinner, and end the night with going to the mikva – a tradition for Jewish women to do in their 9th month of pregnancy – something else I really wanted to get in before the baby was born, and felt would be special to do with these dear friends of mine. Earlier on, I spent the day out with Tsofia and Grandma. We went to Home Goods to continue my nesting instinct mission of getting the home as put together as possible before the birth. We bought so much stuff and when we pulled up to the house, it was me, my 80 year old grandma, and 2 year old daughter.
So out goes the 9 month pregnant me lugging in mirrors, paintings and more! My grandma said to me “You’re going to go into labor” and I said “Its okay I’m 9 months pregnant.” And so I did :) I called the blessing way for 7pm. Although the house wasn’t even set up yet as I would always have meticulously done hours in advance, I last minute decided to run out to do one more thing… get my belly waxed :) For some reason out of nowhere I decided that was the time I need to go get waxed because I would want my belly to be nice and soft when I go into labor. It was so close to the time of the Blessingway when I ran out that as I pulled back up to the house, I saw Robin’s car already parked outside. (At which point I had this strange thought process of envisioning that same picture, with her car parked outside my house, when she would be there tending to me in labor). When I got back, Robin was outside playing with Tsofia as Shmueli was packing the car to take her out with him to the gym so I can have some quiet time at home for the blessing way.
Just before 7pm, when all of us were outside, I mentioned for the first time to Shmueli and Robin that I’m feeling a little crampy. I only recall saying this because I made a joke out loud about Chana and Suzanne showing up from the city and Robin being like “oops sorry you can’t come in, Sam is in labor.” Shortly after, Chana and Suzanne showed up and we began the Blessingway. It began with really special storytelling of women in each of our families and any connection to female role models or birth stories. I spoke about both of my grandmothers. We placed an order from Veggie Heaven and were sitting around painting mason jars as candleholders and rocks for the birth to keep in the room, with written intentions on them. As I was sitting on the Ottoman, every so often I kept mentioning that I was feeling crampy and then it would pass and I would forget it ever happened.
Once the food came at about 8:30, everyone was hungry and ready to eat so they all went to the table. But I had no appetite and felt almost stoned… stuck there in my art project [hello beta endorphins :) ] but going along with everyone else, I came to the table. Besides looking around at food I usually love and thinking “yuk I’m so not in the mood to eat” I eventually began feeling these cramps a bit stronger – having NO IDEA it could’ve been labor but…full on getting off my chair to kneel into a swaying squat for about 30 seconds. And then once again I’d come back onto my chair and act as if everything was totally normal. As one friend started asking if I’m okay, another suggested I start perhaps timing the sensations I’m feeling. Of course I was like – no, homebirths don’t use clocks, I’m in touch with my body… and before you know it I’m silently glancing at my clock…8:40 cramping, 8:47, 8:54… and yet still completely out of touch with reality, as my hormones had clearly already taken over.
At this point I heard Shmueli (who at some point came back home with my 2 year old Tsofia) upstairs giving Tsofia a bath. I walked upstairs to mention to him that something was happening that could possibly mean I’m going into labor soon, as I then had a contraction in the middle of speaking, and said-yeah that’s it, a bit of a cramping I’m feeling. I then felt fine a minute later and took my daughters bottle downstairs to fill it up. As I started feeling loopy again, I found myself walking in circles in the kitchen and thinking out loud, what did I come here to do?? And Robin was like, you’re holding Tsofias bottle, do you need to fill it up? And then, reality check and everything feels normal again and I bring her bottle upstairs.
This continued until we were back doing birth art and hanging out. Someone brought up needing to head to the mikva soon if we wanted to still go and I was like “hmm..nah I don’t think its a good idea because I won’t enjoy it if I’m still feeling this way” (clearly still out of touch). Until one surge was strong enough that I retreated into my dark kitchen and was squatting on the floor, my doula finally came in and was like “alright Sam, you’ve assumed position, you are in labor, we should call the midwife.” It was the first time that I, miss type A, with typed out lists of the order of who to call when I go into labor, even thought about the fact that phone calls had to be made… to my midwife, my sister who was picking up Tsofia, my mom who was coming up from DC, and thankfully not to my doula because she was there :)
I called my midwife and thank G-d, even though she was at another birth where she had no cell service, she was able to somehow see the text I sent her and managed to call me back from a house line. Even though this had been going on for 3 hours, I was soooo in another world and at 10pm said to her “I think I might be in labor but I’m not sure….” by the way, contractions were now about 3-4 minutes apart already. After calls to my mom and sister also being extremely vague and unclear if it was actual labor, we decided it was time for Suzanne and Chana to head home.
As they were drawing beautiful art on my belly and blessing my journey, Shmueli began to set up the pool upstairs. And this is when labor was just so amazing…. literally the instant they left my house, even people so truly close to me, my body absolutely knew I was now in a private, safe and unobserved space (thank you Sarah Buckley :) ) and my labor absolutely took off!! Precious Eliya was born just 2 hours later, from not knowing I was in labor, to suddenly being in wild transition and needing to push! After my friends left, I quickly wanted to retreat upstairs with Shmueli and my doula, Robin. From starting to decorate the room with our art projects, I recall a contraction coming as I was about to light a candle and realized I just couldn’t be functioning like that anymore, labor was so super strong. It felt like Shmueli couldn’t set up the pool fast enough. As I knew from my own doula learning that its best to save the pool for later in labor, I tried to entertain the idea but realized soon after I was already in late labor and needed that pool immediately! Thank goodness for water!!!!
Transition was so strong and so fast that even massage was too much to handle. All I wanted was Robin to continuously pour water on my back and for Shmueli to lock eyes with me during each contraction. When the intensity was getting hard to handle, I reminded myself out loud that contractions wont get stronger, they will only last longer. As long as I could find a way to pass the time, I’d be okay. So my ritual became holding Shmuelis face and staring so deeply and intensely into his eyes as I let myself moan through each contraction, telling myself all I need to do is stare into Shmuelis eyes for a whole minute and this will pass….Until the next one came and I suddenly felt the strongest urge to push, nothing I’ve ever felt before. As I verbalized the urge, Shmueli and Robin were trying everything to keep me from pushing… the midwife wasn’t there yet!
One nice memory at this point that I remembered from Debra’s training, even in the middle of a really strong surge, I said I promised myself I’d smile and laugh during labor because of how it can ease the surge to let myself try to laugh… and I did :)
As Raizy (my midwife’s assistant) walked in at about 12:10, I said “I need to push” and she calmly and gently said “Go for it then, I’m here!”. 12:24am my sweet little Eliya smoothly slipped out of me, head still in an intact sac. The sweetest, most gentle entrance into the world, from the strongest urge to push I ever could have imagined and a sweet little baby boy was laying on my chest.