After a few hours of feeling crampy on an evening in July, Amy & Dan decided to call their provider and their photographer….
Submitted by Amy & Dan Warren
Dan (10:32 PM): I checked in with Amy and told her that the photographer was on her way. Amy was clearly occupied with the (no longer described as crampy) contractions and pacing around the house.
“I think that things are moving much more quickly than I thought,” she told me.
“OK…what does that mean,” I asked.
“It means,” she said still pacing, “that you should call Beth back and let her know that things are moving more quickly than I thought.”
(10:35 PM): “Hello?” said Beth.
“Hi Beth, it’s Dan.”
“How’s it going?”
“Amy says that things are moving more quickly than she thought.”
“OK…What do you mean by quickly?”
“Amy, what do you mean by quickly?”
“I mean more intense. I mean quick. I mean intense and quick.”
“Hi Beth. She says that the contractions are intense and quick.”
“OK, well we are on our way. If you need anything in the meantime, let us know.”
“Sounds good, see you when you get here.”
I reassured Amy that they were on their way and went back to assembling the birth tub in the living room, while Amy continued to pace.
Amy: I had to really move now, to keep the energy moving through my body. I remembered this from my daughter’s birth. It felt as though this powerful birthing energy could “get stuck,” “build up,” and overwhelm me if I didn’t help move it through. And the only way to move it through was to surrender to it, to become a vessel for it, so no part of me was “blocking” it. The funny thing here is that I AM IT. Now, as I think about it, there really was no “surrendering to” or “becoming a vessel for” something else. Rather, it was a matter of just being present and whole. The only way “it” could overwhelm “me,” the only way I could block that powerful birthing energy and thwart its function is if I was under the false assumption that “it” was separate from “me.” Thinking and all of its false assumptions and flights of fancy away from the here and now could lead me astray, away from the experience of my own being. Feeling ruled supreme.
And so, when my water broke on the kitchen floor just minutes later and my contractions compelled me onto all fours and my body began to involuntarily bear down and my moans turned into purpose-filled growls, I was not thinking, “Will I be able to do this without the midwives?” or even “Will he be okay?” I was simply feeling my way through each moment, my body moving according to its own deeply-held wisdom. What a dramatically different way of experiencing myself! Most of the time I perceive my body from the vantage point of my mind, where my sensual experience of the world becomes highly refined through a variety of judgments, projections, expectations, etc. Far less often my body is the center of my consciousness.
When I am this in my body (and out of my mind), it is really really hard to talk. So, when Dan and the midwives asked me how it’s going, it was all I could do to grunt-out a few descriptives. Shortly after getting on all fours I could feel him coming. “Call them back and tell them he is coming,” I said through a grunt.
Dan (10:40 PM): “Hello?” said Beth.
“Beth, Dan. What do I do if he comes out?”
“OK, do you think this is going to happen?”
“Maybe, I just want to be sure that I know what to do if he comes out before you get here.”
“OK, get some baby towels and a hat. You need to keep him warm. After he comes out put him skin-to-skin.”
“Hurry,” I said. “Bye.”
I told Amy that I talked to the midwives and rushed away to get the suggested supplies. In some degree of panic, I search through the highly organized closet where all of his baby supplies were stored (ignoring the labeled bags specifically organized for this purpose in the living room).
Baby towels…baby towels
I ran back into the living room and unfurled one of the towels I just got. “Zippers!” I said. “These have zippers! I have to get other ones.”
“No, just be with me here now,” Amy pleaded.
“Hold on! They told me that I have to have baby towels and these ones with the zippers won’t work.” I ran into the closet and frantically pulled out anything that looked like it would work and checked for zippers. “This will work,” I told myself.
I got back into the living room and Amy was still on all fours, but now making some sort of animal noises. I remembered these exact sounds from Aoife’s birth.
(10:48 PM): “He’s coming,” she grunted.
“What do you mean he’s coming?”
“There’s the head,” she said reaching down. “Get him. Get him” She grabbed my hand, replacing her hand. I could feel the top of his head and instantly the rest of the head popped out. I had a flashback in that moment, back to the birth of Aoife. Aoife shot out in one push and caused a bit of damage to Amy on the way.
“Slowly,” I said holding the head. Gently, the rest of his slippery little body slid out. Navigating around Amy’s leg, I brought him up so Amy could hold him. I grabbed a baby towel and wrapped him up as instructed. That is when the shocking reality of the moment struck me. I was responsible here. Things could be horribly wrong. I didn’t know how to fix it if something was wrong. Deep internal panic.
“The cord is around his neck,” Amy’s voice snapped me out of it. She calmly said, “take it off.” He squeaked once. Opened an eye. He looked fine to me.
Amy: I’ll never forget the feeling of him moving down and out. Intense pressure on my bottom, bones moving, muscles working, tissues stretching, then a little bit of burning as I reached the peak of my expansion. I put my hand between my legs and new that I’d feel the top of his head. There it was, warm and wet. Then, immediately replacing the intensity was the sweet, euphoric feeling of release as his head moved completely through the opening. Same thing with his shoulders…pressure, expansion, then sweet release. The rest of his body slid out and into Dan’s waiting hands. I looked down, still on all fours, and saw my son for the first time. He was looking up at me with one dark blue eye open, which contrasted dramatically and beautifully with his thick white coating of vernix. I was struck by how relaxed his face looked. He seemed far less amazed than we were by what just happened. I saw that his cord was around the back of his neck, like a halter strap. I told Dan and he unwrapped the cord. Lio let out a soft sound as I pulled him to my chest. He was moving about and his color was good. His eyes were open. He even burped. “You’re okay, it’s okay,” I repeated aloud as I rubbed his back. He was okay and I knew it deep down.
What a magnificent moment and it was all ours. The world outside our little living room was none the wiser, as we held this incredible being in our arms for the very first time. No fanfare announced his arrival. No expert witness was there to make it “real.” It was our sweet and quiet, life transformative moment — miraculous and unique and so very precious, but as much normal and universal.
Dan and I locked wide eyes, as we held our newly born son. I will always remember the look of amazement on Dan’s face and the feel of it on mine. Our minds were blown. Our plans for an assisted home birth were also blown to smithereens. We were on Step 2 of the 15 step process of setting up the birth tub when…life happened. The mind-blowing part? We were ready for it. All that we needed was within us, and between us. As an often others-directed worry-wart, a planner and a script writer, the lesson is profound. In the heat of the dynamic, unplanned for moment, I am confident and decisive. Not only can I trust myself in these moments, but I do, fiercely and wholeheartedly. I will cherish and hold close that self-insight as I continue on my parenting journey.
I sat back on my legs and leaned against the couch, holding Lio. I remember the feel of the umbilical cord against my belly and sandwiched between my thighs, still connecting Lio to my placenta inside. We put a hat on him and held him close. These incredibly long moments were spent releasing nervous laughter and doing a lot of stuttering.
Dan (10:51 PM): “Hello?” said Beth.
“How’s it going there?”
“He looks fine to us. Made noise. Eyes open. Got him wrapped. Just hanging out.”
“We are on the way. Continue to keep him warm and let us know if anything changes. If you need to deliver the placenta, then call us back and we can talk you through it.”
“OK, hurry. Gotta go.” I went back and checked on Amy and Lio in the living room. We continued our amazed staring, as time stood still.
(11:00 PM): After checking the window every 30 seconds, I finally saw someone coming up the walkway. Eva had arrived. I opened the storm door, “I need to prepare you for what you are about to see. He’s here (squeal of excitement from Eva)… and the midwives aren’t.”
“Yeah…we just had him on the living room floor.” Eva came into the living room and we explained the course of events…as we waited…and waited…
(11:15 PM): I saw the front door open and felt a giant weight drop away. The midwives sprang into action. Well, they more accurately blended into the scene without fanfare and began assessing Lio and Amy.
(11:20 PM): I answered the door to find the photographer. “Well, I have good news and bad news,” I said. “The bad news is that you missed the birth. The good news is that you aren’t going to be up all night.”
“Yeah, the midwives just got here. Come on in.” The party was now complete. Seemingly after the candles had been blown out, but appreciated guests nonetheless. We sat for a while and laughed. Aoife slept in the room next to us, even with all of the traffic.