“Cristi, please get me a towel.” I whisper, petting his shoulder.
It’s about 1.30 am and I’ve just come to bed after a busy day, finishing most of the tasks I’ve set for myself on my long, pre-birth to do list.
“Err… a towel, yes… a towel…”, he answers, falling back asleep.
“Will, you please get me a towel?” I insist, still managing to keep my voice low.
“Ihim…”, he answers falling back asleep once more.
“If you don’t get up to get me a towel NOW, we’ll soon both be in a big puddle”, I explain.
“Yes… Where from?” he asks eventually getting up and standing beside the bed.
“From the towel drawer”, I answer realizing he’s still half sleeping. “The second one from the top.”
“Here you are”, he says as he hands me two towels, still folded.
I take them and shove them under me, carefully lifting my hips from the warm puddle I’ve made under me. I can still feel the soft, warm liquid streaming out, warming up my thighs and my lower back. So… this is how it feels, I say to myself. I’ve always wondered what it feels like and was a bit worried it might happen while I’m on the street or riding the metro. And I was secretly hoping it might be just a small stream only I would be aware of, that could pass by unnoticed util I get home.
“Are you ok?” he asks, still sleepy.
“I think so”, I reply and notice the excitement in my voice as I giggle.
“Come closer to me, so that you don’t sleep on the wet spot”, he says and I know he still hasn’t realized what’s happened.
“I don’t think I can sleep now… I mean… I don’t remember how long it lasts now before the contractions start, but I don’t think it’s so long and I doubt I can sleep…” I explain avoiding to break it to him that my water’s just broken.
It’s only then that the reality of the situation dawns on him and he suddenly feels so unprepared. I can feel he’s awake and alert now, going over what he still hasn’t found the time to do: reread the Lamaze course support, install a contraction timer app, put batteries in that flash light and I don’t even want to know what else…
Contractions start shortly and they’re still bearable, so I can afford to laugh in between them, remembering his initial reaction and confusion at the news. I soon find it annoying when he turns on the light and starts doing research on his phone. But his big eyes looking at me in awe have a calming effect and I advise him to relax and just be there for me, supportive and affectionate – that’s all I need.
I feel we’ve had all year to prepare and here we are, caught it seems a bit off guard. I was really hoping the baby might wait another week or at least a couple of days more, despite all the signs I had announcing birth, just to give me time to feel more prepared. And was also thinking it might be kind of cool to give birth on my birthday. I was actually thinking this might be the trip I’d take this year: a real journey of initiation – birth.
I get into the warm bath and water has such a calming effect. I ask him to sit by me and just stop thinking about what to do. When I get out, contractions become stronger and I decide it’s time to call for help. We do that and help is on its way, in a different team than initially planned, but we would learn that only later.
My initial thought as labor begins, that it would be short and intense, gradually proves to be half right – it’s long and intense. And as it progresses, many worries and thoughts come and pay brief visits – everything that’s ever bothered me in our relationship, a tendency to rationalize everything, as well as feelings and thoughts I pick up from my helpers. There’s a lack of cohesion in the team and we don’t seem to be on the same page. We do have the same purpose – the safe delivery of my baby, but we seem to have different visions as to how this can come about. Yet I will only become aware of this later, when I look at the experience in hindsight, trying to put things together and make sense of everything that’s happened.
There’s just the fear of pain briefly visiting me as expulsion begins, otherwise anxiety and fear are just passers by in the room, invited by some of my helpers. I try to close the door on them and focus on what I have to do, but I was educated to be a good host, to welcome guests and attend to their well being, so turning my back on them proves to be a bit of a challenge.
“We are one, I am one with it”, I’m thinking and feeling as each contraction takes over my body, leaving me more and more exhausted and teaching me about releasing control. Despite the excruciating pain and occasional feelings of helplessness, I have never felt stronger in my life. It’s true what they say: you do get such a wonderful feeling of empowerment, a feeling that if you can do this there’s nothing in the world that you cannot do. You can do anything.
Nevertheless, as I’m going through contraction after contraction, I am also visited by the thought that you must be crazy to ever what to go through this again. “Three kids?! Jesus Christ! If we adopt the other two, maybe…” I remember saying to myself, sitting on my knees on the bedroom floor, feeling cold and warm at the same time, sweat running all over me as if I’ve just showered, getting ready to survive through one more contraction.
“But you wouldn’t do it again”, my mother tells me in her most self assured voice when I call her on her birthday, just four days later, and she decides to start a conversation about her own fears. What is it that makes dropping their fear bundle over you so irresistible to people? I wonder… Can’t they just mind (or heart) their own fears themselves?
“Yes, I would, actually”, I quickly reply, surprised by my own determination.
“Really?!” she says. “And you wouldn’t change anything?” she insists.
“Well, yes, I think I would. I would still give birth at home, but I would change a bit the organisation, the plan, and alter the team membership, I think.
“Of course. You wouldn’t want Cristi there again”, she replies as if throwing a poisoned arrow at me. Poisoned by her own bitter life experience.
“What do you mean, mom? Of course I would want him there. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel that having this experience together has brought us much closer that anything else could have. It has changed each of us profoundly and has taken our relationship to a whole new level. I know your opinion on men being present at birth, but it’s YOUR opinion, not mine”, I explain and I know I have shocked her again, forcing her to look at life from a perspective totally outside her experience.
Now, a week later, everything is changed. Every day brings changes and is so different that anything I’ve ever lived before. I’ve never been so in love. Nor have I been so amazed before. And although I’ve spent almost the whole year carrying this baby inside me, witnessing all the changes and every day of his growth, I still find it miraculous that I can now hold him in my arms. All we did was love each other – me and his father. And we got this amazing gift that’s beyond anything we could have ever hoped for.
I love it that he takes so much after his father and looks like a little dwarf and he smiles so much. I am reflecting on impermanence and the changing nature of things and I am contemplating the fact that he’ll never be this young again and he’ll never be inside my womb again and he’ll continue to grow and all this attachment, after all the build up, will have to gradually diminish and it already feels difficult.
I’m also reflecting back on the whole birth experience and, trying to understand why expulsion was so long and difficult for me, I remember I was pushing and was not actually visualizing pushing the baby out. It was as if there was a barrier I was setting up, a stop sign. I could easily and relatively quickly get to the pushing stage, but not through the pushing stage. How can I push out someone I never want to be away from? On the other hand, how can I open myself so much? How can I become so vulnerable? How can I give in so much? How can I put myself so much in the hands of my caretakers?
So, right at the end, as the baby’s head starts coming out, everybody in the birth team comes together in a mutual effort to safely deliver this baby right here and now. And I feel no one is thinking about going to the hospital anymore and we are beyond the question of using or not using the birth pool or of what other homeopathic remedy to take, beyond the choice of mantras, essential oils or energy work techniques. Everyone is contributing to the miracle of bringing this new person into this world and there’s such strong support from above. Here and now. And this time is so precious, when everything else just vanishes and we’re all here and now, united in the same effort. When I finally hold my baby and feel his warm, wet skin against mine, after about 14 hours of labor and a sleepless night, I know it was all worth it and all the pain and the exhaustion quickly vanish, replaced by pure bliss.
Now we float above the world in this hot air balloon, the three of us, as if on an early morning on a journey in Cappadocia – the land of beautiful horses. This is how my baby’s heart sounded throughout labor – like the hooves of a beautiful young horse running up a hill, over a fresh green pasture on a wet morning. What else could make me happier on my birthday?
Here are the posts about my birthday trip last year: