This is a portrait and a birth story written in the mother's own words.
I planned for a natural labor, and although I was warned that I may not be able to actually give birth in the water, I decided to try. After about 20 hours of laboring with my husband Marcus' support, I took off all of my clothes and slid into the warmth of the tub. My midwife KS coached me from the side, reminding me to relax, to untense, and to let the contractions do their job – to open me up, to widen me out. Now was not the time to tense, to close up.
Things accelerated very quickly. I went from 6cm to 8cm to 9cm in almost no time at all. Eventually I was just short of 10cm, except for a little lip in my cervix that was in the way of the baby’s head. KS kept a finger inside of my cervix, holding that lip down, while I pushed. And after several attempts she said the magic words to the nurse: "She’s at ten centimeters."
Instead of waiting and letting my body do the work for me, I suddenly had work to do. Realizing at that moment exactly what I had to do – that I had to push this baby OUT – was terrifying. I was way, way, WAY past the point of no return. I felt like very little was in my control at this point, and for a person like me, that is scary. The only thing I could do was to push or to not push – and to not push would only postpone the inevitable. It wouldn’t change a damn thing in the end.
There was a full-length mirror on the ceiling above the birthing tub. I watched myself in it as I dilated, and I watched myself as I pushed. I don’t really have the words to describe what it was like to witness my labor from that point of view, except to say that I hope fervently to be able to do the same with the rest of my children. Towards the end of my pregnancy, as my belly grew, I’d developed a habit of just looking at myself in the mirror several times a day. It was so strange to see how my body had warped and changed, it was fascinating to look at myself and see almost a stranger. Watching myself give birth was like that, only magnified a thousand times. It was like watching a stranger, and it was a struggle to reconcile the fact that the body in the mirror was actually, really mine. The person screaming and writhing in the tub was really me. What I saw in the mirror remains the most vivid memory of my labor, and it’s the one I recall most frequently.
At ten centimeters, we were down to business. Whenever a contraction came over me, it was my cue to start pushing. When they stopped, I could stop. After each push, I asked Marcus and KS what they’d seen, what had just happened. "I can see the top of your baby’s head," KS told me. I asked her if there was any hair, and she said yes, lots of it. I smiled at Marcus and said, "Told you so."
KS then told me, "You can reach down and feel it." And so I did. It was a beyond strange, to feel soft, thin, silky hair where normally there was, well, my vagina. I gently touched the top of my child’s head while she was still inside of me – touched her for the first time! – and it was soon afterward that KS called the nurse into the birthing room to tell her that in a few more pushes, the baby would be here.
The last pushes were difficult. Even with KS massaging my perineum and doing what she could to stretch me open even further, it was difficult. It hurt. It burned. I could feel her head stretching me open with every push and I SCREAMED with the pain. And finally, her head was out! I looked down and could see it between my legs. KS yelled at me "Push again! NOW!" and I looked up above me, into the mirror at myself and my child, and I pushed one last time. And then she was out.
I looked down again and there was a BABY in the water with me! KS placed her in my hands while she messed with her equipment. I stared at her, shocked, as if I’d forgotten exactly what this whole pregnancy and childbirth thing had been about.
Eve Marie was born underwater on August 17th at 1:47am, almost 24 hours after my water broke. With my husband’s support, I was able to have the med-free birth that I have always wanted. I feel really lucky to be able to say that the entire experience, and the end result (who is dozing against me, her breath smelling sweetly of my milk), is absolutely, undeniably, unbelievably perfect.
A blog on art, roller derby and life.
I'm an artist and mother of two in Courtenay, BC. I've completed a project called the "Madonna and Child Project," and I'm now working on a series of roller derby inspired drawings. In my spare time I play roller derby with the Brick House Betties.