Surrender: My Birth Story

Surrender: verb, to give oneself up, as into the power of another; submit or yield.

Before I had a baby of my own I was/am a doula. I’ve been with women as they’ve crossed over into motherhood in both hospitals and birth centers. There have been completely natural births, water births, epidural births, vacuum assisted births and even a cesarean birth. Each and every one was unique. Many times I would instruct my clients that birth was about letting go of control. Letting your body do the work and becoming a bystander of sorts. It wasn’t until Porter’s birth that I figured out what birth really is, and it’s not about letting go of control. Giving up control implies that, as a birthing woman, we have any control over birth in the first place, we don’t. Birth is about surrendering, giving oneself up to the power of another. That other may be god or the universe, for me it was giving myself up to my baby.

This is the birth story of my son Porter Rainn. Luke and I decided not to get any visual ultrasounds during my pregnancy and therefore didn’t know the gender of our baby. He was due before Christmas on 12/23/10. I didn’t expect him to be born before or even on his due date, but I certainly didn’t expect him to be two and a half weeks past. By the time I had my last prenatal appointment, the midwives were telling me that if I wasn’t in active labor (dilated 4cm) by Monday, January 10th I would be drinking a Castor oil cocktail, or have to take my chances at the hospital. I was beginning to panic, neither option sounded like the way I wanted my baby to be born. Luckily, by Thursday night I lost my mucus plug and by Friday night around 11pm I started having somewhat regular contractions. They were too intense to sleep through, but not so bad that I couldn’t use my hypnosis techniques and breathe through them. I instructed Luke to go to sleep because we would no doubt be having a baby the next day and he should be rested.

As my husband slept in bed I lit candles in the living room and swayed through what I though was a quickly progressing labor. I timed pressure waves and they were steady at 5 minutes apart and lasting anywhere from 30-70 seconds. During my pregnancy I had tested positive for Group B Strep (GBS). This meant that I had to either go on IV antibiotics 6 hours before the baby was born or do a vaginal wash with Chlorhexidine, an antiseptic that kills bacteria so that I didn’t pass GBS onto my newborn baby. Since I had no desire for an IV or antibiotics I had to do this wash every six hours until the baby was born. I got a peri-bottle and diluted the Hibiclens

The night passed and at about 7am on Saturday I was sure it was time to go to The Baby Place. I woke Luke and he called my friend and doula Sarah to tell her it was time. When she got the call we could hear her husband hoot and holler with excitement in the background. She came right over and we loaded up the cars and excitedly drove to the birth center about 25 minutes away. Oh goody, this was it!! Or so I thought.

When we got to the birth center the midwife checked my cervical dilation and I was hoping for at least 4cm (active labor), even better would be 6. After a quick check I was told to go back home because I was only dilated to 2cm. Hmm, this was taking longer then I thought. We made the drive home and I continued to labor using my hypnosis techniques (which weren’t working as well as I had imagined).

After the day passed I decided that I must be at least 4cm and we returned to the birth center with high hopes. I really wanted to get into one of their gigantic bath tubs. When we walked in I met Holly and started crying. On the way over I had my first realization about what it really meant to let each contraction move through me. To allow the energy to move through my body and open me up, but I didn’t have the words to explain it. I told Holly this and she said the word that struck right to the core of this whole birthing experience, she called it surrender.

I climbed onto the bed, ready to be dilated to at least 4-5 centimeters. Alas, still 2 cm. While I was disappointed I was confident that I now knew what this whole surrender process was about and on the ride home, as I listened to my hypnosis, I quietly allowed each contraction to move through me. Luke was impressed and I’m sure slightly relieved that my moaning and groaning had subsided.

This continued for the rest of the day and into the night. I labored in the tub and out and the contractions got stronger and stronger. Luke built a fire in the fire place and they both took turns supporting me and taking naps. At around midnight the contractions reached what I thought was critical pains and I really wanted to get into the big bath tub at the birth center. I called the midwife and pleaded to come in and get in the tub and she said ok. We then took the longest most uncomfortable drive, OF MY LIFE!

We finally arrived for the third time at the birth center and Holly had the tub all set for me to go. She wasn’t going to check me just yet, but said I should hang in the tub while she slept for a little while. I was in heaven. I labored in the tub somewhere between 12 and 15 hours. I was pickled and pruned and didn’t leave to go the the bathroom because urine is sterile. It sounds totally gross now, but I was so grateful for the watery relief that it didn’t matter to me one bit. Holly eventually checked me, after the sun came up, and I was dilated 5 centimeters. Half way to pushing and as Holly enthusiastically said, “You don’t have to take Castor oil!” Honestly, I hadn’t even thought I would have to go there, and I was glad that opportunity passed me by.

The first half of the next day (Sunday) passed with me in the tub working through contractions and dozing in between. Luke and Sarah took turns napping and breathing me through it all. I finally decided that I needed a change of pace. This was taking a long time and I realized that I had to move around in order to move this baby down and out. I asked for Holly and Colleen’s advice. I believe my exact words were, “I’m in a rut.” They suggested that I get out of the pool and onto the bed with heat packs on my back. I agreed that it was time for me to experience the next level of labor and I knew that my support people were ready to actually get down to business.

The second half of the day was spend mostly on the bed on my left side. I would have liked to walk around and squat and do all the other fabulous positions I have preached to so many women, but honestly they made the contractions hurt like hell. At this point in my mind I was reminding myself that no one actually died from contractions and I instantly took back any judgement I had of women who use epidurals during labor. Poor Luke was trapped behind me, folded like a pretzel,  pushing a heat pack on my lower back while Sarah was in front of me helping me sing through the contractions. Throughout all this I was drinking water, getting up to pee and every six hours I was using the Hibiclens. I want to say that time flew, but the clock pretty much didn’t register in my mind. I was having to take it one contraction at a time. I will say that at no point was I scared or didn’t think I could do it. My babies heart rate was awesome, so I just had to keep moving forward on this journey.

Nighttime came and the contractions were getting very intense. There is no real way to explain it, but it felt like the energy of a train running through my body and out my vajayjay. I wanted to push, but knew that I wasn’t yet 10 centimeters. The last two centimeters were by far the most difficult, frustrating, and painful event of my life. Both Luke and Sarah had been dedicated helpers, but they were obviously tired and didn’t know how else they could help me. There was no way to ease the intensity of what I was going through. I’ll say this, transition is a bitch!

Holly came in and told me that I had to start letting the last of this energy work through me without spazzing out (my words, not hers). I had to quiet down during the contraction and then rest in between them. Much easier said than done. It involved lots of low groans, blowing out candles across the room and the sleeping in between contractions. Thankfully Lynelle, a midwife in training came in. She was a sight for sore eyes. She was fresh, smiling and an angel there to help me make it to the end, when I had exhausted everyone around me. Lynelle sat with me face to face and allowed me to gaze into her eyes during contractions when I thought my body was going to explode. She smiled, reminded me to relax my face and shoulders and was a moment of peace for my screaming mind and body. This whole surrendering bit was really really hard.

Finally I decided it was time. I could wait no longer. Holly checked my dilation and I was at 9.5 cm. I pleaded with her that there must be something she could do to help get me to 10, and she said yes. This was maybe the happiest time of the day, I was going to push my baby out. I sat on the birthing stool and gave a strong heave downward. My water broke and was perfectly clean and then I started peeing. I peed for what seemed like 5 minutes. I don’t know why because I’d been going to the bathroom all day, like the good little doula that I am. Something about my water breaking and being able to release my bottom let my bladder go. I know better than anyone that bodily functions during labor are to be expected, I just didn’t think I would be so embarrassed. Oh, and yes I pooped too, twice! Everyone around me practically did the happy dance for me though, and they couldn’t have cared less.

In order for me to get past the last half centimeter I had to lay on the bed with my legs held over my head by two women so Holly could help push the last bit of cervix over the baby’s head. I had expected to push on the birthing stool or in the water, but it was my destiny to push on my back. With every contraction I would say to Sarah and Colleen, “it’s time” and they would pull my legs back and over my head. While they were doing that I pushed and pushed and pushed some more. There was no counting and no one chanting at me what to do. It was awesome. From being at so many births I knew that I could push with all my might and the baby wouldn’t come flying out, so that is what I did. I managed to get three solid pushes with each contraction. I was meant to push this baby out and I wasn’t scared of any pain or pressure that may come my way.

In between pushes I would watch Luke’s face and I could tell how far along we were by where he was standing. There was comfortable banter among the women and Sarah tended to my washcloth and water needs. As Luke said it was a very YaYa of the Traveling Pants moment. I loved it. I love remembering this time, the happiness and love that filled the room was exactly what I wanted my baby to be born into. There was peace and confidence everywhere.

Finally, Holly started spraying my nether region with olive oil and she instructed Luke to come sit next to her so he could be ready to catch the baby. I began to feel very intense stretching during one of the pushes and then it burned. My focused push turned into a yell and I felt the ring of fire that is spoken of. Then the hardest words to hear were spoken to me in the midst of this very fiery moment, “Don’t push, just breath through it.” HA! I know I was given this advice so I wouldn’t tear so I did my best to blow out imaginary candles. His head finally passed to the outside of my body and Holly gave the go ahead to give a big push, when I did I felt my sweet baby slip from my body and into the arms of his loving father.

It was quiet for a moment and then there was a soft cry. I looked between my legs and Luke passed Porter up and into my arms. He was crying now and I held him high on my chest. His body was so long that it trailed off my side onto the bed. When it was time to cut the cord Luke’s hands were too slippery from catching the baby and Sarah didn’t feel the need, so I volunteered to cut the cord. I was elated, couldn’t have been happier. Luke was crying and super emotional. Two and a half weeks past the due date and after 50 hours of labor had our baby boy!

The last part of birth gives the most relief by far. The delivery of the placenta happened a few minutes after Porter was born and I started to have cramping again. I pushed 2-3 times and out it slid. My body felt empty and it felt GREAT. I made everyone look at the placenta before it was placed into a bag. After a good check of my parts and the recognition of a small tear that didn’t need stitches the midwives left the room to go help another woman push her baby out. We were alone with our baby, who began breast feeding instantly and without any problems.

My baby and I were healthy and my husband was more supportive and loving than I ever could have imagined. I trusted my body and mother nature and I wasn’t let down. We plan on having another baby in a few years and I hope to do it the same way. While my body will forever be changed, the pain has passed and I have a strength and gratitude that I have never experienced before. Even though I will never poo poo a women for using medication to ease the pain of childbirth, I highly recommend an out of hospital birth with no drugs. It was worth every single moment.

by Megan Alton