This is the baby I wept over. I realize now that God was giving me some easy births under my belt before a really tough one. This is the birth where I learned that I know absolutely nothing about birth, a truly humbling experience indeed. If you read baby “E”s story you know that baby “F” came in the same day. Frankly this birth was not going to be in an ideal situation or anything close. Take two cats, 2 dogs and a tiny apartment that is definitely not clean and toss in a tiny bedroom with just a mattress on the floor; with clutter and dirt and hair everywhere and you have an unpleasant visual. Did I mention that all the above caused an odor to emanate from every spot in the house? Perhaps it was the rather large litter box on the dining room table that added to the unpleasantness! So picture all that in your mind and let me get started on the birth.
When we got to the apartment Mama was already dilated to an 8. I think the team was thrilled, thinking perhaps we can be out of here in less than four or five hours. Mama had already been laboring since early morning and had made great progress. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work helping relieve the pain. In my doula training I was taught to use counter pressure on both the head and the hips. On the head you take our left hand and put it horizontally at t he base of the skull and the right hand across the forehead and squeeze together. Usually Mama likes the head squeezed pretty hard. The hip squeeze is similar. If you end up doing counter pressure with every contraction you will be very sore in your wrists and your biceps. We did the head and hip squeeze for hours and hours. The contractions were starting to pile on top of each other yet Mama remained at 8 centimeters.
Mama had been certain all along that she did not want a water birth. She said she did not like the bathtub so she couldn’t imagine using a tub. The water is a natural epidural but if Mama says no then it’s a no. Her water had not broken yet so with every contraction that water became a very tight ball holding in all the pressure. When you sit at eight centimeters for hour after hour the pressure is intense. Mama became exhausted at one point and finally asked to go into her tub. There was instant relief from the pain. We still did the head squeeze but couldn’t reach the hips for obvious reasons. She labored in the tub for about two hours but still was only at an eight when she got out. Baby was head down in the pelvis but it became apparent that his position was not quite right. By this point most hospitals would have given up and done a C-section telling Mom that the baby wouldn’t fit through the birth canal. So what do midwives do? We spin the baby of course!
I had heard about spinning babies and had hoped to take a workshop on it but I had never seen it done. The purpose of spinning is to bring the baby back out of the birth canal first, readjust the position of the baby and then bring baby back down into the birth canal the correct way. I bet you are wondering how in the world you do that! You get Mama to put her head flat on the ground and her back side as high in the air as possible. Then you take a rebozo which is a piece of fabric or a sheet twisted up and put it around the belly with plenty of room to hold both ends of the fabric in your hand. With each contraction you shimmy the cloth back and forth in your hands. With gravity and the shimming the baby comes back out of the birth canal. It takes multiple contractions to bring the baby back out of the birth canal and it is not comfortable. When you are done spinning the baby you bring the Mama back upright and the baby is suppose to reenter the birth canal properly. It seemed to work.
Mama continued to labor and the contractions were once again right on top of each other but still at an eight. Mama felt a ton of pressure on her perineum but with no relief. It was decided to go ahead and break the water and that brought a smile of utter relief for Mama. During the tub and the spinning Dad had fallen face down on the bed with his glasses on into a sound sleep. With all of that still no baby. One part of the cervix would simply not open so my mentor decided to guide the baby herself through the birth canal. It was a very slow process because that tiny part of the cervix which looked like a dark brown little eraser would simply not move out of the way for baby to come. The next hour was in slow motion. Mama stayed up on her hands and knees for the last hour. One head squeeze after another, one contraction that never ended and a very slow descending baby seemed to just freeze time. Dad is awake and sitting on the bed in front of Mama encouraging her to not give up. Finally the baby’s head starts to emerge with each push but then as soon as Mama stopped pushing the head went right back in. We are now in the second hour of this part. Mama is exhausted and her pushing is not effective at this point. Manually the head is slowly brought out. First the crown, then the forehead, then the nose and then finally the chin. All of this is in very slow motion. I am right next to babies head and he is just sitting there. A baby can’t sit half in and half out for more than a couple of minutes. I have been praying non-stop for about two hours now, fervently praying that God will bring this baby safely to Mama’s arms. Our team member is still working sweeping the opening to help baby come out. She asks how long the head has been out and two minutes is called out. There really is only one more minute to get the body out. The babies shoulder is stuck. Our mentor continues to move around and around and was finally able to get a finger under the babies shoulder to the arm pit. Once she was able to get a finger out of the arm pit all the had to do was pop it out. Once that happened the baby just popped out right into Daddy’s arms.
Even though all of this was stressful on the inside, everyone stayed calm. We wanted Mama as calm as possible. Immediately after baby was born his skin started to pink right up which just did me in. My emotions just burst like a dam being opened for the first time. I finally stood up after being on my knees forever and just started to weep. I left the room and leaned against the wall just thanking God over and over again for His great mercy. I realized I still had a lot of work to do so I wiped my tears on my apron and went back in calm on the outside. Baby was put skin to skin right away and he let out a huge cry. Baby was perfect, pinking right up and breathing great. We try and give the new parents some privacy at this point and just let them bond. We notice that the cord has immediately stopped pulsing which was way early. The cord usually keeps working for another 30-45 minutes before the placenta is delivered but not in this case. The placenta came in just a matter of a couple of minutes.
Mama was so relieved. The pain was instantly gone that she had endured for 27 long hours. She was an amazing woman. Never once did lose her cool. She stayed focused on her breathing to help baby the entire time. She worked with the contractions instead of against them. She would talk to the baby, rubbing her belly telling the baby that pretty soon he would be in Mama’s arm where he belonged. Until the baby was born no one had any idea if it was a boy or a girl. They were so thrilled baby was a boy. She talked so tenderly to him.
We did need to suture her up after delivering the shoulder the way she did. It didn’t take very long to put in just a couple of stitches. We cleaned everything up and started the laundry from the labor and birth. A job well done. I doubt I will ever forget this birth. I learned SO much. It was my privilege to help this woman give birth the way she wanted. All praise and honor goes to my Father who guided that baby into Mama’s arms. He used the wonderful hands of a gal named Wendy who is my mentor. She is a wise woman who is cool as a cucumber. She knew what to do and for that I am so grateful.
Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".