Thursday, March 27th, 2014
I woke up that morning feeling no different than any other morning. No magick was afoot, no possible signs were showing up. I even texted my doula that we may be having an April baby after all and to enjoy her trip to Vegas on Monday.
But around 2 that afternoon I began having uncomfortable contractions that sped up in power and frequency when we went on a family walk. Cherry blossoms and magnolia blooms were popping open and the sun was shining. By 5:45 I thought I better call my doula, Sarah Van Woerden (also my sister-in-law!) to give her a heads up that I could be entering the land of labor. Then I paged the midwives and Eloisa, of Gentle Hands Midwifery, decided to stop by and check my dilation so she could gauge how to approach what I was experiencing. Soon she was at our front door and within minutes we discovered I was already 5 centimeters dilated! Eloisa was fairly certain this was the real deal, and I began shaking with total delight. She left to gather her things and let me get deeper into Laborland.
I had Sarah come over right away because this was her first birth as a doula and in order to have this birth count toward certification she needed to be there in “early labor.” When she arrived, I told her I was trembly because I was so excited and she had me sit on the couch and guided me through a relaxation exercise. Soon my hands and feet were warm again and I was feeling amped.
Eden was wandering around the house, drawing pictures over and over of her baby brother, placing a firm hand on my shoulder during contractions, and being overall wonderful. But the contractions had slowed down, so Erik and I went into the bedroom for a while to think about what to do next. We decided to go on a power walk around the neighborhood because that’s when the contractions were really awesome that afternoon.
Erik put Eden to bed and Sarah stayed with her while we walked around the neighborhood. Sure enough, the contractions became strong and frequent again! Home once more, we put on some lovely dance music and I labored all around the house, bending forward during contractions and really leaning into the pain. I have learned as a doula that the contractions that hurt the worst, dilate the strongest. I found my contractions particularly powerful when I leaned forward on the kitchen counter and relaxed my lower back, almost bringing my bottom in. So I made myself do it, again and again, beginning to feel like this wasn’t necessarily “pain” but “power.”
Sarah’s confident but gentle massages were the perfect touch during these contractions. They were grounding and affirming.
I also made myself my favorite snack: cheese and apple, reveling in my ability to do this in my own home while laboring.
As I entered the fuzzy, lovey realm of Laborland I began smiling spontaneously through contractions. I don’t know where the impulse came from but once it began it was amazing the difference it made in how I experienced the “pain.” I felt exquisite love and joy. I felt soft and close to the divine. I was intimately connected and in tune with Baby, and we were dancing.
I moaned the ancient, low moan that brings babies earthside, often chanting, “opening.” I began to go deeper. Erik swayed with me, and we admired the pictures of our family hanging above the buffet table and my eyes swelled with tears in deep, crazy love for our Eden and all that we have been through in the last four years. We kissed. We pressed our foreheads together. We held our baby, cradled only for a few more hours in my womb.
Laboring by our fireplace was deeply comforting. I enjoyed the hands and knees position, and I also sat, legs spread before the fireplace, staring into the flames and allowing the expansions to open me more. Eloisa Cary and student midwife, Mary Burgess walked in and had a seat at the dining room table while I finished my contraction. I have no idea what time it was but it was before midnight. Soon Eloisa checked me, and I anticipated possibly still being somewhere around 5 centimeters. I knew I was having too much fun to be much further. But Eloisa’s face told me something significant had changed. I asked how much. She said, “Are you sure you want numbers?” I said yes and she responded, “You are 8 centimeters dilated.” My eyes popped open in total shock and I instantly began trembling again, thrilled with the news that I was already so close and having what I would describe as an overall, blissful, love filled labor. I didn’t even know this was possible. I had never believed the stories after what I went through in delivering Eden. Every birth I attend humbles me, and my own would be no different.
Erik immediately moved Eden into her own bed and began filling the tub with hot water. I continued my laboring in the bedroom and found some powerful contractions on the toilet. I loved being in there, all by myself, door shut and safe in my candle-lit cave. My home. My things. My comforts. The trembling stopped when I found my center in there, and I emerged into the bedroom ready to take on transition with great courage. But the contractions continued to be glorious and I continued to smile and beam love from my heart, unrelenting, impossible to retain, impossible not to feel. I looked around my room at the affirmations I had so lovingly made for myself, to remind myself to stay present and trust, to let it be, to have total self-reliance. “It is perfect.” And it was.
“Beginner’s Mind” is a concept from the book Mindful Birthing that resonated tremendously throughout this labor.
“The way out is through” is a powerful affirmation I have used many times over the last year since I went through the Presence Process meditation practice. The picture on the left is one Erik drew during a childbirth class we took with Mary Burgess four years ago and it says “We are all together.” The drawing on the right is what I drew in my doula training when asked to draw our own personal, ideal birth.
The symbol Amy drew to remind me to find an anchor in my breath.
“You are not your thoughts” is from Mindful Birthing, “You are everything you need” was suggested to me by Laura Krupa and definitely was one of my most powerful affirmations.
“Rest in Love,” thank you Jan. To remind me to stay present and that means instead of spending the breaks between contractions dreading the next one, to feel the endorphins and oxytocin and enjoy the rest.
“Letting Be” is above all my most favorite affirmation from Mindful Birthing. I have spent my whole life resisting discomfort, and I have spent the last year trying to re-wire my brain to let what’s happening, happen. To let it be the medicine I need.
From Chaya, a sweet poem.
The midwives sat on the bed, jovial and relaxed. Their energy of faith in birth and in me gave me so much peace. Sarah continually brought me recharge and provided a comforting touch while I labored on the birth stool.
Catriona Munroe of Gentle Hands Midwifery, Mary Burgess, my previous childbirth teacher and doula who is now their student midwife, and Eloisa Carey of Gentle Hands.
Sarah providing comfort measures.
The contractions continued to be powerful but not in the way I remembered transition contractions to be. The midwives had mentioned that when I was at 8 centimeters, baby’s head had not yet descended, and it was probably because my bag of waters was still intact. I personally have nothing against AROM (artificial rupture of the membranes) under circumstances like mine and have seen it be exactly what a mother needed to progress. Although there was nothing slow about my labor, I felt so, so ready to take on transition and begin the elation of pushing that I recalled from Eden’s birth. So I asked the midwives to go for it.
Mary ruptured my membranes and I was ready for action. I got in the perfectly warm tub, opened the blinds, and took some deep breaths for what was to come. Mary warned me, “Okay Laura, the contractions are going to feel quite a bit different now that his head is pressing on your cervix, and they will begin to pile up on top of each other. Dig deep for courage.” I nodded, knowing I had everything I needed to take this on.
I love you Erik. Thank you for always believing in me.
Soon the infamous transition contractions came upon me like thunder and swept the ecstasy right out from under me. I noticed that there was a peak of about 10 seconds to each of them that were outright unmanageable, but that all I had to do was get through those 10 seconds to get back to the manageable discomfort, where I could find my rhythm again. Although the pain was startling and the smiling was done, I began having overwhelming waves of oxytocin that made my eyes roll into the back of my head. I felt myself riding these waves like a rockstar surfer, always staying on top of it, always being capable of getting through. I was proud of myself, even deep in Laborland, so proud of my ability to surf. I knew that soon I would be pushing and the pain would be over. That’s how I remembered my labor with Eden and I had no doubt in my mind.
However, one thunder wave crashed into me and my body heaved into several pushes. I rode out the wave and shouted out “That was pushy!!” to whoever was listening. So excited. I heard some cheers and rested while waiting for the next one. Eloisa suggested that if we wanted Eden to be present for the baby’s birth, Erik ought to wake her up now. So he did. She was reluctant to wake up at first and wanted to go back to sleep, but Erik said, “This only happens once,” and apparently that’s all she needed to hear. She remembered how badly she wanted to be present for the birth of her brother and she clung to Daddy and slowly opened her eyes.
The pushing contractions were unexpectedly and outrageously painful. It was a pain I had not yet experienced in this life. My back felt like it might break open right before each push, and each push felt like it wasn’t pushing the baby anywhere. After a while I began losing fortitude and when a contraction would come I truly felt dread and didn’t know if I could do it anymore. During one rest between contractions, Sarah reminded me, “Good, Laura, you’re resting between contractions just like you hoped to,” which helped me remember that staying present was my goal.
I asked, “Why is this taking so long? Is something wrong?” and I heard the sweet relaxed voices of the midwives responding with, “It all happens in its own time,” and “Don’t worry, you’re pushing your baby out, reach down and feel!” and so I did.
Between contractions I told Eden I was so glad she was there and being so brave. She and Erik held my hand for a few contractions as I screamed and shrieked through the pain.
My most favorite photo of the birth, thank you SO MUCH Sarah!
Forty-five minutes later his head emerged. I felt like I must have torn in a thousand places. But a huge elation filled me up as I realized this was almost over. So I rested, waiting for the last contraction to crash and bring my baby to me. When it came, it took every last bit of soul, deep within, to become my animal and push his enormous body out. It hurt like nothing else had hurt. And then his warmth and perfection was weighing on my chest and I sat back in shock. Had I really just done that??
Welcome to the world
Mateo Banyan Moore
March 28th, 2014
10 pounds 2 ounces
21 inches long
His cord was short so the midwives wanted me out of the tub and on the bed as soon as possible so as to not accidentally place his head in the water again. Once in bed, I began trembling in cold, but trusted my body deeply, seeing this familiar shake in many women following their birth. Within minutes I felt the need to push again, and the placenta was born beautifully intact. And not a tear on me!
Our family is complete.
Mateo Banyan, one week old, more handsome than I could have dreamed, more sweet and tender. I have been waiting for you since the day Eden was born, and now that you’re here all my soul’s dreams have come true. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life getting to know you.