On July 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm we welcomed into the world our darling daughter, Violeta. She arrived after two hours of hard labor and two and a half hours of pushing, all twenty four hours after premature rupture of the membranes (water breaking) the morning before. Here’s how it all went:
On Saturday morning, at 39 weeks pregnant, my partner Pablo and I found ourselves up quite early and decided to go for a walk to see the morning stars and sunrise over our little seaside community (we live on the coast in Chile where Pablo is from). On the way home, I stopped to play with a litter of puppies on the path, squatting down to let them jump all over me and get lots of good puppy chewing love. As I rose from the squat, I felt some warm water leak out (it feels like peeing myself). I thought, “Well, I don't think that's pee,” and let my honey know it was time to go home, that something was happening. He happened to be taking photos on the walk, so we actually have a picture of the moment when my water broke. On the walk home, I continued to have a little leaking here and there – few steps, leak, few steps, leak. etc. I've been making jokes since the birth that, "the puppies broke my water." It's a fun part of the story.
Feeling that labor was eminent, I decided on breakfast and a nap when we got home. Pablo got the fire going really well (we use a wood stove to heat our home, and remember, July is mid-winter in Chile) and drew all the shades to give me a warm, dark pre-labor space. He then ran out to do some last-minute errands. I awoke an hour or so later to a startling sound and smell, then sight – some wood stacked on the stove to dry had caught fire. In a surreal sort of daze, I jumped up to douse the fire with water, my waters leaking as I scurried. I was focused, but laughing at the ridiculousness of the scenario. It was a real adrenaline rush, and though there was no damage to our home or health, the shock of it and subsequent sitting outside to wait for the smoke to clear out put a serious damper on my pre-labor vibe. Perhaps needless to say, there was no laboring that day!
Before bed, I drank a labor helper tea I had prepared earlier to use during labor in case it progressed slowly (black cohosh and blue cohosh, called B&B tea) and relished the chance to sleep before the big event got under way. In the morning, my partner woke up before me and did a little internet research to see how he could help get our labor started. We had read about nipple stimulation helping, and he brought his extra research to bed for an inspired stimulation session (what a fun way to get labor started!). It worked.
About an hour after Pablo woke me, I went to the bathroom and was rocked by my first labor contraction. It was very intense. About three minutes later, another, then another and so on. My contractions progressed to one minute apart over the course of only one hour, then another hour before I felt pushy. These contractions, they really rocked my world. I labored loud and intensely, mostly on my hands and knees, or on my knees and leaning over my fit ball. It all came on so fast that I didn’t have much time to settle in. I imagine that perhaps because of the pressure on my cervix from the baby’s head after my water broke, then the labor tea, then the stimulation, that I had some above-normal intensity to those contractions – they really opened me up fast!
After starting to feel pushing urges, I moved to the shower where I leaned on the ball while hot water ran on my back. I didn’t invest a lot of energy in my pushing at this point, because I didn’t quite trust it. I had never heard of a first baby going into push stage in just two hours. In fact, after about an hour of pushing, I reached in to check on the situation and felt something sort of small and very squishy and it gave me a fright. I thought I had done something wrong and though I followed the pushing urges, I didn’t want to push too hard without the baby in there. Well, how funny is it that? A few minutes later our doula arrived and I said, “There’s something in there.” She asked if it was soft and squishy and I said yes. “That’s your baby’s head.” I about cried with joy and relief and totally surrendered to the pushing. Looking back, I feel a little foolish about that, but oh well. Live and learn.
Throughout all of this, my partner did a lot to support me with the space, bring me food and drinks, and keep the fire going really hot. I remember being afraid because the intensity of the contractions was so hard to bare, especially thinking that it would last eight to twelve hours, as I assumed I would have a normal-length labor! I had always envisioned a peaceful, song-filled labor and birth but I labored like a bit of a wild woman instead – it was very primal, loud and urgent. Pablo was great at staying calm and just being around with things and not talking to me very much so that I could really be with the process and let the oxytocin flow. Our doula mostly did the same. She helped him and held the space knitting on the couch, and offered me hot compresses when I was nearing crowning. We had a midwife available if we needed, but did not use her. My partner and I were really committed to the unassisted “free” birth
When I started to feel my baby crowning, I tried to slow down, but the urge to push was incredible! Though I was relaxed with the way in which our baby’s head was crowning then descending back into the birth canal for a while, I knew it was very soon. I told Pablo to come sit next to me because I wanted him to be there when our baby came out. We had not decided on him catching the baby or not as I wanted to see how I felt when the time came. When I knew our baby was about to be born, it was like all the force in the universe was coming through my body and I was responding fully. I delivered the head and shoulders in one push and just kept pushing, I really couldn’t stop. The head and shoulders delivered with a watery sound that got Pablo’s attention and with one more push while kneeling/squatting against the ball, I delivered our baby into Pablo’s responding hands.
Immediately, our darling girl gave out a sweet few cries and Pablo said again and again, “My child, my child, my child.” I cried with love and we maneuvered slowly onto the mattress on the floor, being careful not to pull on the cord. Pablo placed her on my chest and our doula was there with warm towels to cover her. She lay quietly and aware for a few minutes before beginning her sweet scooting and rooting movements to find my breast. I helped her to her destination and she suckled sweetly, so little and lovely, and covered with sweet vernix. Then, I realized we didn’t even know if she was a boy or girl! We had waited for the birth to know, then in the excitement of delivery, forgot to look. I said, “Pablo, is it a boy or girl?” He said, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know!” I felt a little fumbly with the baby, she was so little and sweet, but finally got her lower parts into view. “A girl, a girl. We have a daughter.” “Violeta,” Pablo said, “Welcome Violeta.” (Though we had actually felt that we were having a boy, Violeta was the only name that ever stuck with us during naming conversations.) I nestled her close and kissed her sweet head. Her eyes were open and I gazed into them with a feeling of relief and of being blessed, but also with total awe that this little precious human was the one who had been living inside me for all those months. I got a good look at her super long legs, too - the ones that enjoyed my ribs so much during the eighth and ninth month - and laughed out loud.
The house hummed with the joy of what had happened, and we waited for the placenta. It actually took about four hours for the placenta to deliver. We had been waiting for it before cutting the cord, but after about three and a half hours I felt a strong urge to cut the cord to shift the energy, and it worked. We said a prayer of thanks, I told Violeta that we were thanking and releasing her soul sister and when Pablo cut the cord, she gave out a little sweet cry. I then got up to use the bathroom and the placenta delivered right out with a plop into the toilet. After that, we had no more worries and just lay enjoying the peaceful presence of our daughter and ourselves, new parents.
Today, as I write this, Esperanza Ana Violeta is six weeks old and sleeping sweetly on my chest in my Boba Wrap. We are all enjoying each other, the growing, the challenges, the little sleep and lots of sweet, and every day I fall more and more in love with her. It hasn't all been easy, but if you're a mother I imagine you know that very well, and that the joys outnumber the tough parts, and that it is all enveloped in a deeper peace of knowing that this is the real stuff of life.
One thing that helped me very much during labor was an affirmation that I had written out earlier in the week that read, “Countless mother before me bless and light the way.” A number of times during birth, when I was uncertain and shaky I would say to myself, “Countless mothers,” and know that I was one of millions who had done just this – birthed life into this world through trial, hardship and joy. I knew all would be well and I was, and continue to be, so thankful for all the mothers in my life and all the mothers that I have never and will never meet, past, present, future. We are a blessed and blessing lot, and I am so thankful to be among us. Motherhood is amazing.
I also want to say a dear thank you to my Boba friends and team. Working for such a great family-focused company and having your friendship and support before and after the birth has been really wonderful. Thank you!