Everleigh Sage

Every birth has its own path. The journey in and the final emergence are all part of a great sojourn. The journey guides women and their partners to a place of great unknowns. What will be discovered along the way is one of those ineffable things that life can only teach you with experience.

Lara’s labor journey began in the midst of “Snowpocolypse 2011″ The humorous name given to the 7” snowfall that had buried most of Georgia under a blanket of white and made most roads impassible. We were blessed that little Ms. Everleigh waited until the roads were clear and safe enough for travel.

Lara’s water broke around 3:00pm, accompanied by gentle contractions every 1/2 hour or so and progressively getting closer together. She was choosing to labor at home as long as possible and was surrounded by family. The contractions picked up around 9pm and moved into a nice rhythm of 4 minutes and lasting a minute. We arrived at the hospital at 10pm. A place where Lara had been told by both OB practice and nursing staff this was going to be a welcoming place for her to have her privacy to labor as she desired and to have an un-medicated birth without interventions. In fact all parties concerned had helped her feel supported in her choices.

Rhythm interruptous occurred as the energy of labor began to slowly decline as she met obstacles to her promised easy and relaxed birth.  Beginning with a phone call from her doctor admonishing her for not rushing to the hospital after her water broke. A lengthy conversation unraveled into a need for Mama to step into her power. Her mind now distracted from her laboring body to the legalities and expectations she was facing. Her doctor was now focused on the augmentation of labor with rules and regulations of ruptured membranes and a concern of things that “could go wrong”.  I watched Lara move into her resolve as she drew upon the knowledge she had gained throughout her pregnancy. She knew that many practices in metro Atlanta allowed a woman to labor without intervention after her membranes ruptured. She also knew that those same practices did not insist on constant fetal monitoring, of which she was also refusing.  After this lengthy phone call and an appearance (at 2 am) to the hospital armed with ACOG brochures sharing that a host of “very intelligent men “have put this together” her doctor expressed he believed she should follow these recommendations.

Fortunately Lara had found many resources prior to her birth, she was prepared for the “what ifs” and we had discussed at length what was available to her to assist her during labor, she was aware that some of those things might be something she wanted to chose if the situation presented itself and she felt she needed it. But for the time being, she was trusting her body to labor naturally and trusting that her baby didn’t need constant monitoring. Her baby’s heartbeat was strong and an internal exam revealed she was 3cm dilated, her cervix not yet fully ripe – a  cervix her doctor had commented on as being “unfavorable” in her last office visit. She conceded to a port in her IV, 20 minutes monitoring out of every hour and a willingness to stay open to what was necessary as labor unfolded. and of course…with her signature on a “release of liability” form she was allowed to follow her instincts. AMA (against medical advisement)  isn’t popular…but it IS possible.

The rhythm of labor had subsided, almost stopping completely and the stress of conflict gave space for doubt and confusion. It is a marvel to see how connected the mind and body are during labor. Her questions filled this space as she began to worry about why might lie ahead…”will I be able to do this? What if I can’t? And at what point if I want one….MIGHT I get an epidural?”

The need for assurance and the return to trust became woven into her rhythm. The pace of the rhythm picked up gently at first but quickly returning to where she was when she arrived. We all celebrated by turning on the ipod and dancing. Lara moved with her body through each contraction, her time in the Dancing for Birth(TM) classes gave her a fun way to celebrate her labor. We did nice wide hip circles and belly dance moves and the whole room of us including the nurse did a little Molly Cyrus and topped it off with a little R&B. When Lara felt it was time to rest, she moved to the bed and through her contractions, trying to rest as much as possible, Daddy took a nap on the couch and we spent the night following the signals and Lara moving about in whatever way felt right for her labor. The rhythm was slow but steady throughout the night.

Pitocin has the effect of making the contractions longer, stronger and closer together. Labor naturally flows in that direction but Lara’s concerns were growing that something needed to happen to assist her body to shift into that mode. The doctor had said she had until 6 am before he would be back to assess her progress,  he actually gave her until 7. His exam revealed that her cervix had indeed ripened and was still at 3cm. At this point the next right move Lara felt she needed to make was to allow a small dose of pitocin. He agreed to a the lowest possible dose which was 1/2 of what he was recommending. She was appreciative of the time she had to labor on her own and confident that it was the necessary and best right choice. And so was this…allowing her rhythm to be augmented she plunged into the next phase of her journey.

Within a couple of hours her rhythm picked up and the contractions came in steady waves. Reaching into our collective tool bags we found ourselves moving into the focus of Lara’s labor and breaking down the passage of time as one contraction flowed into the next.  The months we spent in her yoga class with alignment, breath and relaxation were providing us with many valuable tools to ease through the next hours.

Ritual has a very valuable place in labor. The ritual that stems from each contraction as opening occurs. With each contraction Lara moved deeper into her inner world, the world where she and her daughter were laboring together for safe passage. She found her ritual in what we deemed her “tri-pod” a three pointed support of her husband, her sister and her doula. Each one assuming a job of acupressure and static pressure to help her body stay grounded while she escaped off into labor land. The comfort of consistency and focus guided her through the climb, the peak and peace of the decline. We were often interrupted by the labor nurse though with concerns that monitoring was picking up maternal heart rate instead of both. Their desire was to insert an internal fetal monitor. Lara’s desire was to hold off on that as long as possible and we used movement and repositioning to bring the distinct sound of both heartbeats out. Each time the baby was monitored, except for times like this when it wasn’t picking up but one Everleigh’s heartbeat was strong and very consistent. It was this consistency that softened the views of the staff and gave way to their allowing nature.

Lara at 10cm

At 10 am there was a huge celebration in the room as the nurse gave us all the news that Lara was 9 cm dilated and cervix totally effaced. The “unfavorable cervix” apparently deciding to comply. This news gave Lara a renewed sense of strength and focus. Adrenaline swept through everyone in the room. And then we returned back to our focus, our ritual and the unfolding rhythm of labor. The hours spent with a variety of positions and focused pushing using the bar, the ball and the comfort of her knee chest position all eventually gave way to some very focused pushing and eventually before her arrival an internal fetal monitor. An insistence by her doctor after he received the phone call that she was 9 cm.  We understood he was quite amazed to be getting this call. He had held true to his beliefs that she would not progress, her cervix would fail her and she was not going to be able to do this without the active participation and influence of medical interventions.

And while some of those interventions gave Lara the push she needed to move to the next level…she did not succumb to the auto-pilot of managed birth. She stayed strong and listened to the wisdom of her body, trusted her education and her choices and used the tools she acquired throughout her pregnancy. Her rhythm, her ritual was froth with her wisdom and self reliance and her trust of being able to surrender and be protected by her labor team. Little Everleigh Sage came into the world at 2:56 pm as peaceful as you can imagine. While she yelped and complained about the process  at first(mostly anyone intervening in her snugly contact to her mothers skin) she found herself easily comforted at her mama’s breast.

My three  favorite comments:

One: Immediately after her daughters birth Lara looked at me and said…
“I didn’t have anything for pain! It just slipped my mind.”

Two: The labor nurse observing the “team effort”…..
” You are like the fertility goddess with all your subjects around you.”

Three: The doctor entered the room when it was apparent pushing was going to produce results and he looks around the room and says…
“Well, it appears you were all right.”
(I appreciated that he honored this mother and her choices and acknowledged her intuition and resolve to having her birth, her way even though it was challenging what was “true” for him.)