For several days Holly was doing what we call prodomal labor. She wasn’t officially in “active labor”  Even though she was reported to be 4cm at her midwife appointment and was experiencing mild contractions she was not considered “in labor.” and reassured to go about her day and “real labor” would start and very likely she would have her baby this week. Sometimes this stage is referred to as “false labor” but most women will tell you…it feels very real to them.

On Tuesday morning, after I heard from a very defeated and teary Holly. She was feeling strained and drained by the constant contractions…she said they had been happening all day every 2 – 3 minutes, however they weren’t very intense or lasting very long. Holly is a first time mother, never having experience labor contractions before, she did not have a point of reference about these contractions or what is to come. I could hear in her voice she was feeling stressed and tired. I reassured her by reminding her of the process her body was going through. I encouraged her to see it as “progress” it just was not “measurable” yet. But it would be. I assured her that her body and her baby were working together towards her daughter’s birth. We talked about her fears and concerns, the “what if’s”  that were on her mind. I even assured her that it was possible with the first stage of her labor going so slow and easy that perhaps the later active part would move quite quickly. That seemed to cheer her up a bit.

Early labor is a time when the uterus is being prepared for birth. The cervix must thin and the early dilation stage can be very erratic and without any defined pattern. It can start and stop, it can come on very slow and mild and sometimes last for days. Holly had been experiencing contractions for several days. I had hoped this reassurance would help her find the calm she needed to guide her body in its process of opening.

I wasn’t surprised when I got a phone call that night from her husband at 11:00 pm. Holly’s water had broken and she was experiencing much more intense contractions, quite close together. We made a plan to meet at the hospital, for them only minutes away. Over the phone I could hear Holly in the background. Her voice was high and stressed and I could tell she was having difficulty with the contractions. She wasn’t up for talking with me on the phone…I took that as a sign that things were progressing pretty fast.

By the time I made the trip downtown to the hospital, found a place to park and made my way to labor and delivery Holly was well settled in to her room. She had been told her desired water birth wasn’t going to be an option. They had discovered meconium during her exam. The good news was that she was 7 cm. and things were looking very good!

When I walked into the room and looked at Holly I saw the face of a girl. She looked scared and uncertain and a little panicky. I could see she was worried whether or not she was going to be able to handle what was to come. I know there can be those moments of overwhelm…can I do this?? Am I going to be able to handle the pain? I could also see past her concerns to the part of her that knew exactly how to do this and what I saw emerge over the next few hours was a strong and confident woman, trusting her body and believing in herself.

I always encourage mothers to find a pattern. A pattern they can focus on that helps them break each contraction down. Taking them one at a time and staying in the moment. Fear comes from focusing on the past or the future. Being in the moment, taking things as they come and not worrying about what comes next can be very empowering. Strength comes from the realization that we have what it takes to handle this moment.

Holly’s ritual of labor was sitting on the birthing ball in the shower with her husband anchoring and grounding her with his love and support and a steady flow of ice chips for her to chew on. Each wave of contraction was met with gentle reminders to relax, lower her shoulders, let her voice go deep and low into her body. Listening to her body, moving when she needed to move, rocking with each contraction and breathing with low, deep purposeful sounds she moved through the following few hours reaching for the trust and confidence she needed.  When the nurse came in for an exam at 2:00 am she reported she was fully dilated. I could see the relief in Holly as her body seemed to relax even more, she moved into her contractions with fortitude and resolution. I heard her call from the shower with new found strength.. “I’m doing this..” as if for the first time she really understood how capable she was of bringing her daughter into the world.

She pushed as her body directed her for another hour in the shower. Midwife Margaret came in and sat with her, checking on baby and finding out she was doing fine. On Margaret’s encouragement I heard Holly say…”Oh my God!” as she touched her baby’s head, she was so close.

She moved to the bed and used a variety of knee chest positions as well as using the pushing bar. I watched her face with each push and I watched something get born INSIDE of Holly. She had been gathering a sense of her strength, learning to trust her body and believing in her self …and what I saw blossom in her during her pushing phase was her wisdom and power. It emerged in the outline of her face and literally unfolded in her body as she opened her whole being.

Her beautiful daughter was born letting the world know she had a powerful set of lungs. Which was good, since there was a great deal of meconium and her crying was helping clear out her lungs.  She was born at 4:09 am. Only 6 hours after Holly’s water broke. She emerged with a roar to let the whole world know she had arrived! Holly’s emergence was no less profound…she too had found a voice within her that I know will stay with her always.

I left watching a happy family, content little girl nursing and parents blissfully smiling and I was home before sunrise, feeling that all was right with the world. A new journey had begun.