I was planning to deliver at UCSF, but contemplating a home birth (I gave it a 20% chance). You know what? As labor progressed, it was manageable. I found it really, really helpful to read all of the birthing stories in Ina May's book, just so I felt like I knew that labor comes in all shapes and forms, and while I was pretty sure it was going to hurt, I let myself be open to the possibility that it was doable... and it was! It was really, really ok.
When I was in early labor, I found that breathing helped my contractions (Daddy Miles tried to play the color game and put on music to distract me, but I didn't want either of those). We also had a rice sock that was warm, and when Miles put it on my back and applied pressure while I was in some of the labor positions we practiced, it was really helpful.
As things progressed, I decided to get in the bathtub, and I went into this space deep in my mind that I never really knew existed. Its as if it was part of the female collective consciousness thats been with me since birth that was meant to be tapped at this exact moment. It was kind of wild, and a little like an out of body experience... I could hear my self yelling- not out of pain, but out of the need to vocalize this amazing life force that was ready to emerge- and I could feel the baby descending with each contraction.
Its all a bit blurry now, but at that point, Michelle told me that it was time for her to call the assist midwife if I was going to stay at home. I felt like I was in this very protective space with my head in Miles' lap during each contraction, within our home, surrounded by the photos and memories of our loved ones, with Michelle as my protector and mother in absentia (my mom was scheduled to drive up from LA at 6 am on the morning of the 5th... we called her and told her to get moving a bit early, since I had a feeling the baby was going to arrive way before that), and our dog, Bullet, confused, but eager to help, coming up to to the bathtub during each yell, and then later, licking my feet after each push of the baby.
Plus, the idea of getting in a car, having to sit vertically for the ride, walking to the admissions counter, having to converse with the triage nurse sounded like pain worse than death. I felt like whatever I was doing was working for me, and I did not want to upset the apple cart by changing the equation.
The contractions got really intense (but at no point did I feel like I was suffering... it was more the sensation of going for a long run, and feeling like your limbs are tingling and your chest is tight because you are at threshold of not quite getting enough oxygen- not painful, but uncomfortable and counterbalanced by the endorphins running through your body), and when I vocalized that, Michelle told me I was in transition.
Just being reminded of that made me know 100% that I could birth this baby without any interventions. I remembered that transition was the hardest part (and for me, it was) and I was totally doing it!! Any lingering fear I had completely subsided at that point.
It was time to start pushing, so we moved to our bed, and my body told me that being on my hands and knees was the way to go. Pushing felt good and not painful. With each push, I felt the baby descend. It created relief on the parts of my back and pelvis where the baby was on the prior push, and activated new places in the birth canal, but as I said, for me, it was all ok!! I could not believe that I was doing this. It was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. I still felt a little like I was hovering over my own body and present but detached at the same time. I didnt want to MOVE. Every ounce of my being told me to stay exactly how I was and not change positions, so I didnt.
Then, I felt the baby's head begin to crown, and I remembered, "Relax, let this baby's head be here, do not bear down, its ok" and I think because I was so relaxed, and we had practiced the perineal massage technique, the sensation was a familiar one and I was not afraid. In fact, I found the perineal massage to be much more painful than what I experienced as the "ring of fire"... I was expecting to feel the burning of a thousand suns, but it felt more like a mild sunburn- again, totally manageable and ok.
Then the baby arrived, and Michelle passed him through my legs and I was in complete shock. Did this really just happen in my bedroom??? Did this really just come out of me without pain relief and I was ok?? It was such an amazing feeling. Father, mother, baby, all together for the first time. Its the most amazing thing when you see the little one that has been inside of you for all of those many months. What a rush!
So, the things that were really helpful for me included: birthing ball to sit on during early labor, heated rice sock on my sacrum with pressure and hot bath during active labor, and the following phrases I remembered hearing that really, really made a huge difference and gave me great reassurance:
Your body is strong
All is well
You are amazing
You are doing great
You are in transition!!!
If I was going to Monday Morning Quarterback my labor at all, the only thing I would have changed (which was totally beyond my control) was that my mom would have made it up in time and could have caught the baby. (She made it up by the time he was about 4 hours old, and I also attached a photo of the proud grandma). Oh well, he won't know the difference, and at least he had Aunt Michelle to catch him which really was the next best thing. Best of luck to all of you and remember, however you birth goes, its just one day out of a lifetime for you and your baby- as long as they come into the world healthy, whatever you choose, or your care provider chooses for you, it will all be ok!! Oh, and you are strong and can do it!!!!!