Birth Story:  Silas Robert

People who know about birth may tell you that labor typically begins when a woman is relaxed.  Despite months spent fretting over the mere possibility that my labor would start in an abrupt and awkward manner, the reality was that it started at home when I was relaxed – sound asleep, in fact.  I awoke to the sensation of mild “cramps” around three o’clock in the morning.  After lying in bed awake for about half an hour, contemplating what my body was experiencing, I decided I would get up and take a shower.  The cramps continued, but they were not especially painful.  It was not until I was blow-drying my hair that I realized I was truly in labor – when I had a “cramp” that was so intense that I had to shut off the blow dryer to breathe through it.  It’s true – labor calls your attention.  So I started timing my contractions with my little smart phone app.  And in the meantime I painted my fingernails (very important, no?), typed up my birth plan, and got my clothes packed.  Around 7am, I decided it was time to wake up my husband.  I nudged him and said, “I need your help.”  The intensity of my contractions had swiftly picked up – averaging 4 to 5 minutes apart - and I was beginning to feel like I could do nothing else but concentrate on getting through each wave.  It took my husband a moment to absorb the fact that I was indeed in labor.  But he soon switched in to “auto-pilot” and got busy gathering our hospital bags, calling the midwife, and summoning the support of our birth doula.  When our doula arrived around 8:30am, I was no longer able to speak during my contractions – I remember this because I felt badly that I could not greet her when she walked in the door.  Her presence, however, caused me to cry – because having here there made my husband and I feel safe, and allowed me to let go of my emotions a bit.  I cried not because I was in pain, but because I was scared – birth is a big deal. 

That was the point of my labor when my mind and attention turned entirely inward; I became mostly quiet, and centered, and focused on the job.  Shortly after her arrival, our doula suggested we head to the hospital rather than labor at home any longer.  Sure enough, when we arrived at the hospital around 9:30am, the midwife checked my cervix and informed us that I was 8 centimeters dilated.  Turns out I had had a very productive labor.  Hearing “eight centimeters” brought me an enormous sense of relief.  I thought – that was it?! I am almost done!  Everyone thought our baby would be born within a couple of hours.  So I hopped in the tub to relax, my husband to kindly poured water on my back to keep me warm, and I was so calm that I actually drifted off to sleep between contractions.  My labor slowed down.  This served me well as it gave me a chance to cultivate some energy for what was to come…the intense work of pushing my baby out.  Eventually my doula encouraged me to get out of the tub in order to try some different labor positions, in hopes of getting things moving again.  I wasn’t too keen on that idea because, as I said, I was calm and relaxed in the tub, but I knew well enough to do what she told me.  Shortly after getting out of the tub, I remember a point at which there was no break between my contractions – the much-dreaded period of “transition.”  By then I had had so many hours of practice getting through contractions, that “transition” wasn’t as hard as I anticipated.  With my cervix stuck at about 9 centimeters, my doula told me I needed to stand up and walk around – to let gravity bring my baby down.  After telling her “No, I can’t do this anymore,” followed with “Let me think about it for a few minutes,” I begrudgingly stood up and paced the delivery room while leaning on my husband for support.  Gravity did the trick; it was not 10 minutes later that baby boy was making his way out in to the world.  It was an intense and overpowering feeling when my baby was coming out.  I realized I was not in control of the process.  The challenge for me was to let go, and let him be born.  After about 45 minutes of pushing, through a level of exhaustion like I had never felt before in my life, my little man came out crying – the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.  I read an author’s description of the experience of pushing your baby out as “the biggest get-it-over-with moment of your life,” and while an amusing way to put it, it was absolutely true in my case.  Just when you think you can’t do anymore, you push through it, and your baby greets you on the other side.  My husband helped catch our son and lay his pink and blue, wrinkled, perfect body on my chest at 3:19pm - just 12 hours after I woke up with “cramps.”  

I look back on my son’s birth day - the highs, the lows, the raw determination, the fleeting moments of despair, and the indescribable love I felt when I finally held him in my arms - as “perfect” birth experience.  Reflecting on that day floods my heart with gratitude, and humbles me to my core.  The birth of one’s child – however the birth unfolds – is a profound, life-changing event.  While many aspects of birth are certainly beyond our control, I believe that expectant parents ought to do whatever they can to set themselves up to have the birth they envision.  For me, that included participating in a 12-week course in the Bradley Method of natural childbirth.  The course is an invaluable foundation to embarking on the experience of childbirth.  

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