If I were going to make a film depicting a woman’s true power and the use of her clear voice, showing her ability to birth with inate wisdom and trust…I would have simply filmed this woman’s birth….
This was a long week for Anna, we had several conversations in the middle of the night, texts and emails throughout her days as she felt each and every contraction that began gently and slowly, but very much getting her attention.
According to her midwife she was 2cm and only partially effaced on the 20th, she was extremely positive and staying very busy, moving into her wonderful new home and chasing after her very precocious and active 2 year old daughter. Amongst the busy-ness though her body began to demand her attention. Easy contractions were making themselves known, even possibly present due to needing water or over doing. We talked and she would remind herself about the slowing down, about drinking water. As the days progressed, especially the nights she would have contractions picking up…getting closer together, feeling stronger and then a shower or some sleep would slow them back down.
On Thursday, the 28th (6 days prior to birth) we talked about how she could use some of the things we talked about in her prenatal. Sitting on the ball, using the ball for child’s pose, a yoga move called pigeon…ball supported, doing some hip circles and “Dancing for Birth (TM)” moves I had shown her. Hip circles are a wonderful asset to oncoming labor. She made a plan to start moving inward and listen to the needs of her body..rest…water…
Another midwife appointment revealed nothing had changed, still the same, 2 cm and only 50% effaced. She was told to go home, eat some chocolate, she WAS NOT in labor. These are never words a mom wants to hear, especially one that has been contracting already and hoping for progress. But Anna stayed very positive and feeling as if everything was happening just as it should. She was enjoying the chance to feel her way through her labor, something she missed out on due to an induced and medicated birth the first time around.
On Friday Anna began to notice a change in her contractions. Her back was beginning to ache a lot with each one, the cramping was getting more intense and she talked about new sensations that were moving through her belly. Contractions were still erratic but more intense. I was beginning to notice how they were consistently lasting at least a minute. Something I don”t usually see until later in labor. Something was beginning to nag at me, a feeling that this baby was not quite positioned optimally for birth. Although erratic and inconsistent contractions don’t necessarily mean that, I was feeling a need to perhaps make a visit to Anna’s and see if we couldn’t do some things to help if that was the case.
Upon looking at Anna it appeared to me that her baby was lying transverse, side to side alignment. Upon closer inspection it seemed that her baby’s bottom was up in Anna’s right rib cage and her head was up against her left hip bone. We spent about an hour or so on Saturday doing moving to help things along. Dancing for Birth (TM) has given me a lot of moves that can help realign and position a baby not quite in its birthing place. We also did some yoga, on the ball and on the floor. I encouraged her to use these things regularly. I suggested even time spent sitting on the ball would help.
When she stood up from our time together and we did some walking around the room I took a look at her belly, it looked much different. Although baby was still predominantly on the right side, she seemed much more vertical. What I could now do was go home and trust mother nature to do her job.
I received a couple of calls through the night from Anna, some mucousy fluid and bloody show were followed by stronger contractions. It was morning though before her contractions were consistently 5 minutes apart and lasting a minute each. She made a decision to go to the hospital, feeling concerned that the distance would be too great if she got much more uncomfortable. After arrival though, as often can happen, contractions slowed down and during the whole paperwork process almost stopped.
Finally, left alone to labor, at least for a little while…walking, moving and taking some time in an effort to get things back to the pre-chaotic hospital state. Time gave way to contractions, although erratic, but steadily getting stronger. Anna was handling each change very well. A few trips around the halls would get them going pretty good, but when tethered to the fetal monitor things would slow down and decrease. Something was going on, we weren’t certain of what it was, but trusted the possibility that my suspicions of fetal positioning problems might be slowing things down we kept moving, adjusting her body in an attempt to move the contractions away from her back. We did lots of hip circles and “dance” moves, specific yoga postures and Anna’s favored position of child’s pose on the ball. This is a great support for labor, we consider this as moving the baby “into the hammock” where there is plenty of room to maneuver.
The monitor was an often intruded inconvenience. Of course the insistence of every hour for at least 20 minutes was demanded. Around noon or a bit after the monitor was picking up Sarah on the opposite side, the left side. She had been lying on the right the whole time, they had always picked up her heartbeat just above Anna’s right hip. They left her for quite some time on the monitors this time, the midwife was directing that the monitors stay on. Even indicating that she would not be able to continue unmonitored. There was growing concern about a low base line, picking up mom and baby’s heart rate together, decels with contractions. My concern was that she was pinching her chord and was doing so after she made the “flip” from one side to the other. The concern of the staff was also chord compression.
This was a huge turning point for the Midwife. She started talking in an aggressive approach kind of way. She mentioned C-section. There were plans within the couple to get a second opinion, to call the physician of the practice..they were considering whatever option they had to take to make sure the right decision for them and their baby was being made. I noticed Anna’s calm. It was wonderful for me to see a woman moving through these mysterious waters so calmly. I am sure there was great concern for the safety of her daughter. But what I saw was calmness, and her entire focus on…what do we do next?
While the midwife was away we went on the assumption that if we move the mother we move the baby. We got a very tired Anna up on her feet and moving around. On her hands and knees on the bed seemed to be the best position when it came to Sarah’s response to her contractions. The midwife wanted to break Anna’s water to insert internal monitoring to make sure exactly how the baby was doing. Upon exam though it was determined that Anna’s water had already broken, a fact that we suspected but weren’t focusing on. The nurse had earlier used an amniotic swab to determine if it had and it came back negative. A fact that felt as if the birthing goddesses were looking over us. Ruptured membranes gets a very harsh treatment, constant fetal monitoring and an ever impending time limit. When the midwife found there to be no membranes the decision to have the internal monitors put in place seemed like a good one in Anna’s mind. She was so tired of the belts that just seemed to create more stress and was not helping. There was also a decision to allow for amniotic infusion and an iv for fluids for Anna. The infusion was to assist in case there was chord compression somewhere, it was believed that it would help float the chord.
Whether it was the fluids, the movement or just the natural progression of labor there was a turning point. Little Sarah began have great accelerations. She eventually settled in to an acceptable pattern and both Mom and baby got a little rest. But…with another visit from the midwife came another round of unwelcomed news. She was discouraged by the slow labor. She had checked Anna and found her to be 5 cm, which was no change from hours before. She was suggesting the introduction of pitocin. The midwife mistakenly said 6 hours, but it was closer to 3. It did seem a bit premature, since most of those 3 hours was spent repositioning for the baby, clearing the chord issue we assumed and some resting. Anna and her husband insisted on more time. Give me an hour she said. And gladly, the room emptied and the three of us went to work. Anna’s attitude was that she had an hour to make a big change and no matter what..she would make that change.
We did a combination of things that had worked up to this point but I had something tucked in my “tool bag” that I had been feeling it was time to use. We did what is called a “pelvic floor release” for three contractions, we then had her turn over on her back and I did a technique called diaphragmatic release. , Anna remembered the suggestion of the nurse to try nipple stimulation, it releases hormones into the body that stimulate labor and she added that to the release. In moments her body shook in a wave, something completely different was taking over. We were planning on getting up and moving to some of her favorite music after that but she decided she needed to stand up and go to the bathroom instead. She and David went into the bathroom together and had some time to focus with just each other. Very quickly she began making the sounds of a woman in transition, her body convulsing as the pushing urge took over her.
The nurse and midwife came into the room just at their one hour promised time to find Anna, deep into transition. They ushered her to the bed where they checked her cervix to find her fully dilated and baby’s head reachable. To their amazement they had to hop to it to get themselves ready. Anna was able to push on her hands and knees for just a few pushes, pushing her baby out with relative ease. It was a beautiful site and a wondrous feeling. I could see the joy on the couples’ face. It was not just the arrival of this baby girl, but the feeling of having conquered the impossible. Joyful tears filled the room. Mine were included.
Dilating 5cm in 1 hour is pretty amazing. It reminds me how all things are possible. There was so much negativity and doubt being delivered by their care provider, but all I saw on the face of these parents was a determined focus. They banded together and faced each moment together, urging their daughter into the world, through love. If fear was present…it wasn’t here in the room. It might have been hanging outside the door…but here, just open welcoming arms for a safe passage.
I walked away impressed, imbued with hope and a deeper sense of belief in things I already held true. I took a look at this little one’s astrology as I always do on my arrival home and the thing that stood out the most was the power of transformation that will no doubt follow this delightful girl throughout her life. She sure arrived in one of the most profound transformations I have seen in some time.