As a doula, I am often asked about my own births but I’ve gotten really good at deflecting the question. I don’t want to think about myself when I’m with my clients. I want to get out of my own head because I’ve already been there and done that. When I first became a doula, my own births were my only reference point. But the deeper I get into birth work, the more it feels like my births were a random crap shoot. I don’t share the details because they don’t matter — I’ve come to believe that the details of how a birth unfolds has little to do with how we end up feeling about it. Ultimately, what matters way more is how safe, supported and seen the birthing person feels throughout the experience. Don’t get me wrong, I think about my own births all the time! And despite all the wisdom and knowledge I’ve gained from attending other people’s births, it’s my own experiences that are at the root of how and why I connect with my clients so deeply. I get weepy at nearly every birth I witness because I’m brought back to that amazing feeling of meeting my child for the first time and that primal relief of knowing that I made it through and am safely on the other side.
So against my better judgement, I am sharing my first birth experience. Not because I am an expert of any kind, but because I too am a birthing person with a story.
A note to my little love..
Dear Leah, you are my pride and joy. You are the one who taught me how to be a mommy and helped me realize the importance of girls knowing their voice, strength and special gifts. This is my memory of how you came into the world.. Love, Your Mommy xoxo
It started at around 9pm on the evening of the winter solstice 2008. I felt tired and kind of floaty so I told Paul I was going to bed early. He was confused because I’m the type who tends to stay up way too late, but he didn’t ask any questions. I drearily woke up at around 11pm and told him I felt crampy. He told me to call the midwives so I did. She kind of blew me off because it was 18 days before my due date and who actually goes into labor that early anyway.. As I drifted off back to sleep, I knew labor was brewing. At around 3:30am I awoke again in labor for real. We called the midwife and got ready to go. Paul went up the hill to get the car and I waited for what felt like forever. I was sitting in a big cushy chair in our old apartment rocking and consoling myself, trying to muster the faith that this would be exciting…
It was a cold and snowy night, probably around 4:15am as we drove on the dark deserted highway to the hospital. I felt cozy in that moment, awake in the wee hours of the morning, alone in the world with my husband,
When we got to the hospital I couldn’t stand up straight. I was leaning on Paul, the counter, a chair, anything I could find to help me bare my seemingly tremendous weight. I couldn’t sit but they needed me to lie down to be checked – “4cm.” “Ok, that’s good I guess?” I didn’t know. My brain couldn’t register numbers or language. I needed an IV—“FUCK!! No one can ever find my veins! Whatever.”
We were led to the labor room and while I waited for the midwife to fill the tub, I was standing.. swaying.. in the bathroom.. hanging on Paul.. it was all a blur. When I finally got in, the warm water was a tremendous a relief. I felt buoyant and the contractions didn’t hurt as much. My mind became clearer.. I could talk again.. A cool cloth on my forehead and chest felt great!.. “This is good. I can do this” .. But then it got intense again.. I squirmed around in the tub. No position felt good so I kept moving. Hands and knees.. on my side.. the other side.. my wrists hurt from maintaining my weight.. “Make sure I keep my arm out of the tub so water doesn’t infiltrate the IV”.. sweating.. freezing.. moaning.. Then a huge release of pressure and I felt her come down. Something was pushing me.. “I’m scared!” .. “That’s your baby,” the midwife said, “Don’t be scared.. You’re safe.. Let her come” .. I didn’t push, moreso I let go and allowed her to come.
It was 8am on a Monday morning and the first day of Hanukkah when my little girl floated out of me into a warm peaceful tub.. “Here she is!”.. I couldn’t wrap my brain around it so I looked at Paul as if to ask, “Are all babies this small?” Her skin was paper thin and I could see her veins. She was 4 pounds 13 ounces of perfection (I later learned I had a marginal cord insertion which caused IUGR) Despite her miniature size, she was healthy and looked so wise and alert! My baby looked right at me and we knew each other immediately. Never before had I felt such a huge wave of relief and release of stress that I didn’t even realize I was lugging around with me for nine months. It was amazing and confusing and it occurred to me that I was totally naked, but I was blissed out in this warm water holding my tiny little slippery baby that would be mine forever.
Frustrating and very painful attempts at breastfeeding this tiny little baby with a tiny little mouth came next, but we eventually worked it out (thank you nipple shield!) I remember my early days of motherhood so well and so fondly, but I’ll save those details for another time.