It was roughly 2:30 AM that 23rd day of July 2014—a typical Wednesday I thought. At 41.3 weeks pregnant I was all too familiar with spontaneous contractions (false alarms) that colored various segments of my wobbly days and kept me awake at night.
“Yup.” I sighed, “I’ll probably be pregnant forever.”
I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t still wondering, “Oh my, is this it?” After all, the contractions were coming every 5-7 minutes, lasting about 45 seconds each. Sleep didn’t come easy, but I drifted in and out as often as I could under the assumption that when I woke the contractions would have ceased.
Bryant woke occasionally to time my contractions in 1-hour segments. Noticing twice a pattern of longer, stronger, and closer together we decided to give Alicia (our doula) a call. She was excited for us and advised us to keep timing as there were still some irregularities.
Things seemed to be moving a bit slower than the initial onset of contractions and I was getting worried that maybe this was another false alarm. Just then …
“Hey guys! I lost my mucus plug. I think it’s official!” I yelled from the bathroom. Hearing echoes of cheers from my mom and Bryant.
On my way out of the bathroom, a much stronger contraction washed over me like an intense energy wave. I felt compelled to get on all 4’s and rock. At the peak of the surge I felt nausea rush through my entire body. This was the first time I’d ever gotten sick during the pregnancy.
We informed Alicia that my contractions were coming now every 3-4 minutes and lasting 1 minute each for the past 2 hours. She advised us to notify Carol (attending midwife) and made plans to come over.
Carol agreed that I was probably in early labor and advised us to give her an update once Alicia had assessed the situation.
Alicia’s text “On my way in a taxi…”
After the nauseous episode, food was a no-go for me. I had been munching on raw almonds, cheese cubes, and fresh mango beforehand, but I couldn’t stomach anything else. Mom and Alicia kept me hydrated throughout the day on mostly coconut water when I could keep it down.
By the time Alicia arrived, I had been awake nearly 24hours. My contractions were slightly more intense, still 3-4 minutes apart and lasting 1 minute each. I lay in the bed to get some rest as she continued timing them.
With every surge, I drifted in and out of sleep—it was very hazy. At some point Alicia contacted Carol, who then agreed to come over.
Alicia recommended I rest for about an hour in bed before becoming a bit more active and changing positions.
Though getting out of bed sounded awful to me at first, I found that an hour was all I could stand due to the contractions. It was no longer even comfortable to lie down—I was ready to get up and shift that energy.
Under Alicia’s guidance, Bryant assisted me with gentle side lunges and squats as I propped one leg up on a small stool. This was to progress the labor.
To the calm sounds of earthy instrumental music and flowing water—I breathed my way through the intense surges with Bryant’s support as he lunged and squatted with me.
Mom (our videographer) stood in the doorway and couldn’t help getting a bit sentimental at the sight of what she called a graceful ballet dance between Bryant and I. She softly said, “Oh my, so beautiful. It’s as if you two are on stage performing.”
Alicia stood close by and gently encouraged us, “Perfect. Just like that. You guys are doing great.”
It was clear that I was still in early labor because I was fairly talkative. Though the contractions were intense, I was analyzing them from the outside. I was still debriefing everyone on my experience just after each one.
Over the next ½ hour, something began to change…
I was floating above the surface but I could feel something pulling me down…down, slowly into the deep. I wasn’t afraid—it was like a force that gradually caused the room to grow a bit dimmer, the air a bit thicker, and silence filled my soul. I could handle this. It was manageable—all I had to do was keep breathing to stay in control, right?
Carol arrived to find me in my warm birthing pool—I’d been in for about 15 minutes to manage the intensity of the surges. She observed me breathing through one full contraction to assess my labor progress.
I reclined against the side of the pool while she checked vitals—blood pressure and fetal heart tones. We were all touched as the pulsing rhythm of life ascended out of the water through her fetoscope—this was mom’s first time hearing the baby’s heartbeat. She chuckled saying, “Mm-hmm nice and strong. Listen to that.”
An underwater vaginal exam determined that I was just over 2cm dilated. Since I hadn’t slept the night before, Carol was concerned about maternal fatigue as the day progressed.
She offered to kick-start active labor by stripping my membranes to which I agreed. She stepped out for lunch and we agreed to call her when things picked up.
I assumed that this would be a gradual process—wrong! The very next contraction took me by surprise—very powerful. Then it happened…
In that moment I felt a gravity-like force pull me just under the sapphire surface. I could see glimmers of light just above the surface speckling through—reminding me of where I’d been just moments ago. The force was pulling me much deeper with each contraction, and I was no longer in control—this was the first time in labor that I felt afraid. The deeper I sank, the dimmer the light grew. ‘Is it possible that I will drown?’ I wondered. I wasn’t resisting, but I also wasn’t ready to surrender—this was my limbo.
There was now a noticeable change in my coping strategy—it was shamelessly audible! No longer was rocking and silently deep breathing going to cut it. It was merely impossible to talk during the surges—they took my focus completely inward. I was grateful for the warm water of the pool reliving some of the pressure.
Subconsciously, something came over me and I found myself singing the song of my journey. It was raw, inspired, real, spontaneous, primal, and loud.
I hadn’t a clue what was happening around me as I sang. I don’t recall the ability to stop singing once a contraction was underway. It was automatic—an ancient call-and-response rooted in my primal nature—the call a surge, the response my song.
In song I was validated and reassured the voice of by my Higher Self that I wouldn’t drown if I didn’t want to. She explained that my successful return to the surface with my baby would require a descent all the way into the darkness—deep enough to face my shadow. This meant confronting my greatest fear head-on.
Singing empowered me. Somehow through my voice I was gathering strength and recruiting the energetic support of every woman who had ever made this journey before me. I could hear their voices too—they were with me. On my descent, I would need all of their energy. I drew on their collective strength the courage to pass through the ring of fire, and bring this beautiful soul into the world.
Everything was very hazy but I recall flashes of Bryant, my mom, and Alicia—who was like a guardian angel waiting on me hand and foot. She quietly orchestrated my care as everyone took turns gently fanning me, offering sips of chilled coconut water to keep me hydrated, and holding an ice bag on my head to keep me cool against the warmth of the birthing pool.
After nearly 3 hours, Alicia decided it was time for Carol’s return.
This time Carol brought along Emma, her birth assistant.
Carol reassessed my vitals and listened to the baby’s heart. She verified with me that the baby was still moving a lot between contractions. Then she determined that I’d already dilated to 8cm.
I was still in the birth pool to cope with the intense surges. She and Emma hung out in the dining room until I began feeling an urge to bear down with contractions.
Another change was ensuing—I couldn’t resist the strong urges to push during contractions. Carol instructed me to just go with it, allowing the weight of my baby’s head to dilate me to 10cm.
And then last words on I ever wanted to hear, “This would be a great time to step out of the pool and change positions.” Yikes!
Bryant and Alicia assisted me out of the pool for gentle squats and lunges. This time was much more difficult because of the intensity of the contractions, and my urge to push with each one. Though I cooperated, I became a bit frustrated because all I could think about was getting back into the pool.
It was almost unbearable to continue like this—every push left me more exhausted than the last. I agreed to 5 lunges or squats at a time, getting back into the pool to rest before completing another set. The water didn’t erase the powerful sensations, but it did lessen the intensity I felt during surges.
Carol was trying to prevent my complete exhaustion due to a long labor preceded by a sleepless night. Maternal exhaustion has led to many homebirth transfers to a hospital and we were all aware of this risk.
Meanwhile, Carol brought in a squatting stool—which I renamed the throne of torture! Every contraction I did on that stool caused me to strain so hard that I almost thought I wouldn’t make it.
If I was going to birth my baby at home, I knew that I’d have to take it easy—that stool was simply draining and anxiety-provoking.
This is when I became more insistent on taking short breaks in the pool (Honestly, there are no breaks at this point in labor, but the water was the best comfort technique I had).
Carol didn’t like the fact that I was so avid about resting between squats. She assumed that I would be too exhausted to give birth at home. But my body was telling me what I needed to do to avoid exhaustion, so I trusted in myself and did what was best for me—spending more time in the water.
The room grew dim as the daylight faded into a mystifying, blue overlay. My song of ‘ahhhs’ became deep grunts as I pushed through more squats, lunges, and short pool breaks in between.
I remember a moment when time stopped. I came back into my body fully and could hear my thoughts so loudly, “I don’t think I can do this…there has to be a way to make it stop…I am afraid.” I was standing in the pool, staring at the wall.
I couldn’t believe that I was questioning something I’d spent years looking forward to.
Before I could even process the doubt another contraction pulled me down into the water and I began to reason. “If I’m now pushing with every contraction and moving around to cope with pain, then opting for the confinement of a car-ride to the hospital for pain relief probably isn’t the smartest idea.”
There was no turning back at this point. I understood that the sooner I accepted that truth, the better off I’d be.
There in the twilight, I was nearing the deepest part of myself and losing track of time. So focused on pushing through just one more surge, I finally lost all concept of time. My vision was a somewhat of a blur and all I could hear was my own breath. It was hot and I was feeling a lot pressure.
My whole world condensed into one focus—to push deeper with every contraction.
I remember stillness—it was so quiet and dim in the room, but I was never alone. Alicia and Bryant would follow me into the dark, and I found comfort in knowing they were with me.
The Pushing Stage
Carol and Emma came back into the room suggesting that I try assisted pushing since I’d been pushing for nearly 3 hours. ‘3 hours?!?’ I thought. It felt to me like no more than 30 minutes (told you I lost all concept of time).
Alicia and Bryant assisted me out of the tub and onto our bed. Carol assisted me through several pushes with Emma at her side. I was supported by Alicia and Bryant, while mom captured my requested video footage.
“See? There’s the head, right there.” Carol said as Alicia held up a mirror for me to see. By then I was exhausted and my attention was dead set on pushing. Though nearly drained by the process, I found strength in the fact that my baby was working just as hard to meet me—we were in this together.
I was careful to only push with contractions. 2 pushes later Carol said, “Dominique, reach down and feel your baby’s head.” Upon contact my face illuminated with unparalleled joy. This excitement renewed me so much that everyone chuckled—they said I looked as if I hadn’t in labor at all!
I didn’t care about anything except meeting my baby. No pressure or sensations was an issue any longer because I didn’t care. I’d do anything now just to hold my baby.
1.5 pushes later Carol said, “Ok Bryant get ready to catch your baby.” “Really?!?” he gasped and she said, “Yeah!” Just as he reached his hand out, I passed through the ring of fire as foretold, and Bryant Darrell Wilson III was born with an iron-grip around his daddy’s finger. There was a simultaneous crash of thunder outside which everyone marveled at.
Our healthy son gave a loud cry as he lay on my abdomen still holding daddy’s finger. Tears rolled down my face as the 3 of us bonded. A few minutes later, Bryant cut the cord—making sure it was no longer pulsing.
I nursed and held our son for an hour skin-to-skin. During that time, I birthed my placenta, which was immediately stored for encapsulation. I also received 2 small sutures.
At 8lbs and 22″ long with head circumference of 13.4″—Bryant was an unexpectedly big boy.
The following day my brain caught up with my body as I gasped, “I’m a new mom and I pushed out an 8lb child without pain medication here in the comfort of our bed. How awesome is that!!!