My midwife arrived around 12pm. I was on my hands and knees on a yoga mat on my bedroom floor trying to breathe through contractions. She stayed with me for a few contractions and I remember telling her that I didn’t think I was handling them well (me, still convinced that these were only early labor contractions, so if I wasn’t handling these ones well, how was I going to handle the “real” ones). “I don’t think I will be leaving again”, she said, and started getting her things ready.
My midwife and I agreed before the birth that we didn’t feel it necessary to check my cervical dilation throughout labor. She and I preferred to let my symptoms tell us how far along I was. She said she would only like to check my dilation when I was feeling like pushing. She would check if I was fully dilated and that there was no lip left on the cervix to avoid pushing in vain and losing energy.
I got into the birth tub and tried to find comfortable ways to get through the contractions. I thought the tub would give me more relief than it did. I distinctly remember thinking, “ya, right about now is when I’d get the epidural”. It wasn’t that I actually wanted one, or that the pain was so bad that I felt I needed one. It was more of an amusing internal dialog, like, “Wow, yeah, this hurts like hell and I can see why people get epidurals right about now”. What I did say out loud a few times was “this is haaaardddd”.
After a while — I have no idea how long — I decided to get out of the tub and labor on the bed. There I felt the same amount of pain, so after maybe two hours of laboring on the bed, I got back in the tub. I remember seeing my midwife’s watch read 5pm.
I don’t remember a distinct shift, or things getting super intense which would have been “transition”, but I do remember a calm right before feeling the strong urge to push. This “calm” can often happen after transition to give your body a slight chance to catch your breath before the pushing stage, so I think I may have experienced transition while laboring on the bed and now felt a calm in the tub.
I then started to have these intense pushing urges and pushed for a while in the tub. I could feel my contractions fading and getting less effective. I decided to get out of the tub so my midwife could check my progress. She said I was fully dilated but that there was a slight lip on the cervix. I think I had already been pushing for about an hour at that point, so she offered to break my water, which hadn’t broken on it’s own yet.
When she broke my water she saw that there was a bit of meconium in the amniotic fluid. I knew that sometimes that is a reason to transfer to the hospital. She didn’t say anything about transferring, she simply told me what she saw. I remember sighing a few F-bombs, contemplating the information. I wasn’t scared for my baby’s health, or scared of going to the hospital, it was just that I literally could not imagine the logistics of getting my butt-naked body, contracting every few seconds, into clothes, then into the car and 15 minutes to the hospital. So I took the information about the meconium and channeled it into pushing even harder.
I pushed for another hour – while sitting on the birth stool, squatting on the side of the bed, while doing acupressure points and essential oils. My midwife emptied my bladder with a catheter because a full bladder can block the baby. When none of those things worked, she said she had one last trick. I don’t know how to say the next part any less graphic, so here it is. She had me lie on my back on the bed holding my legs up, hospital style, and her last trick was to put her fingers in my anus to help pop the baby’s head out. I let out some serious screams during the ‘ring of fire’, and finally at 7:07pm, Koa was born.
Photography by Biggy Tooth