If you have not already you should go back and read Ani’s Birth: The Start and Ani’s Birth: Continued before reading further. Since I have not been the most consistent story teller lately, largely Ani’s fault (the story I will stick by) I had to reread the previous posts in order to remember what happened next and what to include in this part of the story.
…..so, Ren finished breakfast and was asked, by our midwife, to go ahead and get into the birthing pool with me. The birthing pool was set up ahead of time and is temperature controlled to 98.6, or around internal body temperature. Perfect for a newly emerging being who just spent 9 months swimming around in warmth. At this point I am about half lucid and unable to clearly identify my own needs (except getting the baby out) much less request assistance. The pain is intense but the worst was yet to come. The pain was still manageable. The kind that hurts but you can think through it, breathe through it. I was quickly approaching a precipice, however, and needed Ren in the pool to catch me when I either fell off or hurdled myself of the cliff. Whatever came first.
the concept of time blurs along the edges until it is indistinguishable. A fog in the distance that refuses to lift under the hormonal soup of childbirth.
I’m not sure how long we were in the birthing pool before the midwife suggested we get out and try other birthing positions. As a matter of fact, during labor the concept of time blurs along the edges until it is indistinguishable. A fog in the distance that refuses to lift under the hormonal soup of childbirth. Too many details about positions, in/out of the pool, etc are not relevant. In fact, especially since Ani is now 5 months old my memory will fail if I try to conjure them up. Some people say that you forget the pain of childbirth, which is why women can have multiple children. This is not exactly true. The memory of the pain has not dulled for me but the agonizing details have faded. Forcing me to focus on the intensity of the push and the actual birth. I remember going through transition out of the birthing pool, on all fours with my face shoved into a pillow to keep my eyeballs from falling out of my head with the pressure of each contraction. I remember thinking, “From what I’ve read the end is close now. We’ll have this baby by lunch time.” Just a fleeting thought. Lunch time came and went. I had some cheese and fruit, as much as I could manage. I got back into the tub with Ren. My mother close by to facilitate the small stuff. Cold cloths for my head, food for Ren, the midwife and the assistant and updates to the rest of the family, eagerly waiting outside. Just a slab of wall between them and us. I later learned that they all listened intently to the whole process, as much a part of it as they could be. Suffering each pain with me from their perch outside the window.
Once the pushing started I thought again, “From what I’ve read the end is close now. Surely just another hour, nothing more.” That hour came and went and the pushing became intolerable. I kept looking up at a poster sized picture of me ascending from my last world record dive. I would think to myself, “You’re so strong. This shouldn’t be so hard for you. Lots of women go through this.” But how? How can it be that women, whom I may (In a previous, more self absorbed life) have considered weaker than myself have slipped by childbirth, babies practically falling out of their uterus. Seriously, how can a woman like Kate really have eight? But those thoughts are unproductive. Along with thoughts of emergency hospitalization and death. During a non-medicated home birth focus is imperative and any thoughts deviating your focus, a waste of energy. I learned through this that childbirth is the great equalizer. It brings the strongest to their knees right beside the weakest. The latter and former crouch together in perfect agony, secretly (or sometimes not so secretly) wishing death would come deliver them from themselves. For some it does. For most of us, amazingly, it doesn’t. We are left alive and well with our miracles in our arms.
Ren coached me through each contraction. Relying on his knowledge of breathing and the power of the diaphragm, he reminded me before each push to take a peak inhalation, the biggest breath I could get and bear down on it. I was releasing the pain in screams of agony but he corrected the behavior, reminding me that my pushing power was lost in screaming. It was better utilized with the low growling noise. The growling was making my throat hurt and I was sure every blood vessel in my face was busting, leaving me with a full face hickey, but the body took over. I was able to get two peak inhalations and pushes out of each contraction. The pushing, I later learned, lasted about three hours. Turns out little Ani was sunny side up or in the posterior position, elongating the process. Also, one side of my cervix refused to completely dilate. After all that time! Nothing my midwife couldn’t handle. It took her two tries but she expertly, manually moved the remaining part of my cervix to the side, making room for Ani’s head to come through. That hurt! That was a pain I begged her to stop inflicting. With Ren in the pool I was able to “relax” between contractions. Relying on him to catch my sleeping, limp body in the 40 second intervals between pushes. Strangely enough, I managed to fall completely asleep during some of these intervals. Awaking to the pain of the contraction banging through my body.
I remember asking, “How much longer?” as the baby’s little head emerged and sucked back in after every push. Over and over this happened. I begged our baby to make this easier on us, to just come on out, but she couldn’t hear me. She was trapped in her own vaginal prison. Her poor head trying to squeeze through the birth canal after so much time. Finally, the midwife got excited. She was a very stable, calming voice through the process which made her excitement so much more powerful when she got louder and said, “Come on! Keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing!” There was no more time to quit on the contraction. The baby was ready to come out and I was the only person in the world who could deliver her. Digging deeper than I ever had to dig before, and you think, diving 220 feet down and having to swim up again without fins is hard, nothing compared to this dig. Life or death. I could have choose either at that moment. I dug down and pushed. My mother holding one of my legs out, fighting my inclination to drawl back up into a ball, not letting up until I felt the slimy sensation of our new baby entering her new world.
I checked and turned to Ren, tears in my eyes. “It’s Ani! We have Ani!”
I looked down just in time to see our midwife scoop our baby out of her water bath. With Ren just behind me our midwife placed our baby onto my chest, still connected via the umbilical cord. From my chest she urged the baby to breath, blowing into her face. Not satisfied with the first few muffled cries, she persisted until the baby let out a small howl. It was only then that I remembered to look down to see if we had a little Ani or a little Cape. I checked and turned to Ren, tears in my eyes. “It’s Ani! We have Ani!” I sit here now, with tears in my eyes remembering watching my mother jolt out of the room to yell down to the others, who had been listening through every cry, “It’s Ani! It’s Ani!” The rest of the birth story includes a placenta, blood and stitches. I’ve said too much already.
The amazing thing about the whole experience is I didn’t do it. I’ve never been so intimately involved yet so far removed, simultaneously, throughout a process. What an obscenely unexpected point of view. On one hand no experience could be more real and in the moment than life emerging from your body, ripping it’s way out from within. There is no mistaking that you are a part of what is happening. But it’s more like the birth is happening to you, the vessel. On the other hand I never expected to have so little to actually do with bringing Ani into the world. Maybe I’m selling myself short but it became very clear to me during every contraction that my body was fully prepared to bring Ani into the world with or without my dainty little pushes. What a strange feeling to be fully present yet completely out of control at the same time.
I carried Ani for nine months and endured every discomfort, every agitated sciatic nerve, every night sleeping on my side with a pillow between my legs. I endured every kick (and enjoyed every one). I endured the few months when I had to sleep sitting up because she was hurting my ribs to badly. Sitting on the floor with my head in the rocking chair, praying for a bit of sleep so I could escape being a monster the next day. At the end of each day of the pregnancy, Ren and I would lie in bed and play with Ani. Before she was Ani there were just a few layers of flesh between her and us. She was still abstract. Just a series of kicks and punches. Those moments were unreal.
I know God has a hand in things because as good as my vanity leads me to believe I am, I’m just not that good. Every time I look at Ani it humbles me to think about how blessed Ren and I are. Even the two of us together couldn’t combine forces to purposefully create something as awesome as little Ani Bird.