When asked about the moment she first saw her son as he rested below her, Amy said: The folks who were there noticed that Miles really took everyone in and “arrived,” so to speak, in that moment. It was great, and I was really happy to have that time to catch my breath. Telling him he was welcome was really beautiful too, I think I was crying. It was so moving!
Birth of Miles
Leading up to our due date, I felt pretty sure that our birth would be right on schedule for November 20th. Friday morning (the 19th) there was a pink tinge that I took to be the beginning of my “show”; that afternoon my friend/doula Heidi came over and after a vigorous backrub a trip to the bathroom yielded a more certain confirmation that things were moving forward. I celebrated by going to the bakery with my best friend and eating an enormous piece of carrot cake. I then went home, ate two entrees from our Thai place, and got ready to get some sleep. At this point I was having vague contractions that were irregular; when I laid down at 11:30 I timed them at 18 minutes apart. I thought I could get 4 or 5 hours of sleep and then we’d spend Saturday in early labor.
I woke up at 1:00 to contractions that were 6 minutes apart, like clockwork. We waited 2 hours, at which point they were 4 minutes apart, to call Kristen our mid wife. We called our two doulas Heidi and Laura at 4; by the time they arrived at 5 the contractions were 2.5 minutes. I was obviously very excited, and the rapid escalation of labor made me think we’d be through this by nightfall. I was very wrong on that count.
Scott called his best friend Jamie who drove down from Massachusettes and set up camp in the living room. He didn’t play a role in labor support, but helped with trips to the store and moral support for Scott when he needed a break.
Scott hadn’t even gone to bed when I woke up at 1:00 am, but he shifted immediately into coach mode, and was amazing. His attention was laser sharp and entirely loving, and the contractions were completely manageable as we om-ed through them. Even when the doulas arrived I wanted him to stay in the driver’s seat of the situation. For several hours we chanted, walked stairs, tried the tub (it was too relaxing, my contractions weakened unfortunately). When they picked up in intensity around noon, we called Kristen and she came over. My contractions continued steadily, but with little increase in time or intensity, into the evening. I remember looking up at the window between contractions and being amazed the sun had gone down.
All five of us sat in our bedroom while we chanted and I moved around, but I was beginning to get frustrated and wanted to return to the intimate feeling Scott and I had had in the early morning. So I kicked everyone out. Scott and I then just focused on each other for a couple of hours, which was definitely the sweetest part of my labor, and provided me with ballast to go into what would be a very hard night. My contractions did intensify, and Kristen returned, had me try the tub, and the urge to push began.
But something wasn’t working — I said “I feel like I’m still dilating while I’m pushing”; so out of the tub, and another change of scenery. Scott crashed in the other room, and Laura got me walking stairs, taking them two at a time in lunge position to open up and get the contractions deepening. We did that for about an hour, and Scott woke up and we slow danced around the dining room and he rubbed my back through increasingly intense contractions. We had stopped timing the contractions because it was clear the speed didn’t match the intensity or give us a read on the progress of the labor. My team kept me drinking coco water and fed me crackers with peanut butter and honey to keep my energy up, and Kristen gave me a remedy for my fatigue.
Kristen then had me go into a supported squat with Scott behind me on a chair as she checked my cervix. There was a substantial amount still present—it was now around 9 pm. She decided to move my cervix, and had me push while squatting while she maneuvered my cervix back around the baby’s head. I had a very hard time figuring out how to effectively push. This part of the night would be the most difficult as I became increasingly frustrated with myself, increasingly exhausted, and occasionally unable to ride the contractions which put me at the mercy of a lot of pain and fear. Scott was incredible holding me up, and lifting me to my feet over and over between contractions. We worked on squatting for a while, and my water broke as I pushed against my slowly opening cervix. This was around 10:30 pm. I was amazed that suddenly my belly was soft and considerably smaller, even with the baby still inside.
Kristen explained we were going to try to cut 4 or 5 hours off the labor by manually pushing back the cervix, but in the back of my head I had given up hope that the baby was really coming out, and I imagined spending the rest of my life having contractions every 2.5 minutes. This was “the wall”; I assumed that running into the wall and passing through it would take 20, maybe 30 minutes, not hours of doubt and hopelessness while I battled pain and fatigue. The combination of mental and physical focus required was so enormous it seemed impossible to maintain for another several hours. My team was amazing in keeping me from succumbing completely, and I later realized that my body was undeterred by my mental state and had kept moving Miles regardless.
We moved upstairs, first to the bathroom, which I didn’t like, then to the bed which at least didn’t require me to think about not falling over as I had contractions. Kristen was very good at reading when my mental fatigue would peak and move me to another location in another position, which helped me stay engaged. While I was on the bed, I discovered if I had resistance I could channel my energy more effectively, so I held the hands of my doulas and pulled them in to me during contractions to push the energy back down. Even though I was getting more of hold on the pushing, the pain and intensity of the contractions was growing, and if I didn’t meet them head on I was tumbled head over heels in hopelessness. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the baby passed my cervix while I labored on the bed. It was impossible for me to tell that I was making progress, but Kristen kept me focused that even if it was slow, it was happening. Had we been in a hospital, the pressure to induce and then get a c-section would have been overwhelming, and I am endlessly grateful for Kristen’s certainty.
We moved to the bathroom and passed the turning point. It must have been around 1 am—24 hours in. I reached into my birth canal and discovered the baby had moved about halfway down. This was a miracle! All doubt disappeared and I became completely resolved to birth this baby. I felt made of resolve. Laura sat with me and I held her hand arm-wrestle style, pulling against her and pulling on the towel rack next to the toilet. Somehow I managed to not rip it out of the wall, which was a small miracle as I now had hulk-like strength. Laura stayed with me, totally tuned into where I was at, coaching me to stay present and that any feelings I had that I couldn’t birth the baby were not real, that things were going just right. After an hour or hours of this, Scott stepped in to take Laura’s place for the homestretch. Meanwhile, the baby’s heart-rate never rose or fell—even if I wasn’t sure how things were going, he was completely relaxed about coming into the world.
The contractions were more intense than I could imagine and I finally mastered channeling their power back down into pushing. I imagined a mirror above my uterus and the contraction was like a gathering white light that would emanate up, and I would focus the mirror to reflect the energy back down into pushing. Between contractions I would say “I will birth this baby!” and “it’s my power to use!” Kristen was coaching me to “poop the baby out” to keep me focused on pushing back toward my rectum, which I hadn’t expected at all. The pushing was incredible now, and I could feel the baby’s head move with each big contraction. The relief was tempered by the unbelievably uncomfortable pooping feeling.
Kristen suggested we go back to squatting, this time on the edge of the bed. She explained we would squat until I crowned, and then go on all fours for the final pushes. The intensity of the sensation combined with the physical exhaustion meant I couldn’t hold the squat very well, but luckily the baby descended enough that when I shouted “can I go forward now?” Kristen said go ahead and push. Laura was at my head, and Scott and Heidi were at my feet (we were all squished between the pool and the wall in a long narrow space between the door and the bed) and Kristen was moving around preparing for the delivery. They got a pan of warm water and some oil to ease the stretching; by now I could only get single words out, like “warm! warm!” to get the warm compress on my perineum, which was a godsend. Kristen showed me the baby’s head in a mirror and I could feel the first bulge of his skull. She had me lift one foot to be in a half squat (lifting my foot felt like being asked to move a car with my bare hands, but I did it).
Like the rest of the labor, the final pushing was longer than I expected, but overall it took about 10 or 12 pushes to finally move him out. I kept my eyes closed and was in a very deep state of focus, and was having strange visual flashes after each big contraction, seeing images from comic books, and plaid patterns. At some point I looked back and saw that Scott was crying, later he told me because seeing him crown made it real that we were finally having our baby, who I had known for 9 months, and he was about to meet.
I felt the ring of fire, and was surprised to find with each push it transformed where and what kind of pain it was made of. It took all my concentration, and I finally thought: “I decide now to have this baby, the baby is more important than any pain”. With that, a few more pushes and we reached the widest part of his skull. I had anticipated birthing his head, then his shoulders and body, and had been feeling like my pushing had been so inefficient and weak all along, that this would take a while. But with one enormous push he splooshed out onto the floor and I realized how powerful my pushing had been all along. I felt so strong and so utterly tired at the same time. Twenty-seven hours of labor later, our baby was born at 4:23 on Nov 21st, a Sunday.
Scott had wanted to catch the baby, but it happened so fast the baby was out and on the towels on the floor before Kristen could move to let Scott in. They passed him through my legs and I painfully tried to sit back. He was loosely wrapped in a towel and I felt something hot on my leg — I looked down and discovered I had a son, and he was peeing on me.
Scott looked at me and said: “what’s our baby’s name?” I told him “Miles” and we both now knew we had a son.
We sat like that for a few minutes, just looking at him in wonder, and him looking out at us. We were quiet and let him take in all the love of everyone there. I talked to him for a while, welcoming him and explaining how much we love him and how he made the world a better place just by being born. My mind was completely overwhelmed by the reality that this person had been inside me, and Scott and I had made him. I picked him up and held him and he started to cry. We assured him he was safe and we would listen whatever he was telling us. I leaned back into Scott and Laura cut the cord.
I passed the afterbirth and felt an enormous relief. We slowly slowly crawled into bed, and I nursed him for the first time. Kristen, Heidi and Laura cleaned up, then Kristen weighed and measured Miles. We said our good-byes and our new family drifted off to sleep.
Amy, Scott & Miles