I am awake at this ungodly hour of 4:40am. Eleven years ago at this time, I had been up half the night in early labour. I remember it all quite well but haven’t spent much time reflecting on the day Meredith was born. The last eleven years have left little time for remembering what happened in the moments leading up to her birth and when our lives were forever changed.
Birth is such an extraordinary experience in a woman’s life that the majority of women remember their births in vivid detail while some women spend a lifetime trying to forget it if the birth was difficult or even traumatic. Women are forever changed by their birth experience regardless of the outcome. There is nothing else that challenges a woman more deeply in all aspects of her being and we carry that with us for the rest of lives whether or not we are conscious of it.
Contrary to popular belief, I had a positive birth experience. Some might argue otherwise but from where I was standing, it was a beautiful labour and birth. We had bought our first home in February of 2003 and within weeks, I discovered I was pregnant. Tim and I made an educated decision to give birth at home after an uneventful pregnancy and were in the care of skilled and caring midwives and our doula.
On December 5th 2003, I was up most of the night with mild contractions and called my chiropractor at 6am to come to our home and give me one last adjustment before things really picked up. He arrived at 6:30am and could feel our baby’s legs high up under my rib cage. Once he adjusted me, contractions increased with intensity and once they were coming every 4 minutes, we called our midwife as I knew things were really starting to roll. She arrived at 9:30am and assessed me to find that I was already 4cm dilated. We called our doula, Tammy, as well as our friend, Jessie, who was in charge of taking the photos, to tell them that there would be a baby born on this day. My mom was also on her way to oversee the many tasks involved in a homebirth. It was a beautiful winter morning with every surface (each fencepost, branch and twig) covered in a blanket of sparkling frost.
I recall being amazed by the contractions and at the same time not being surprised by the intensity of them. I had been with 99 women at this point as a doula and had witnessed firsthand, over and over, the sheer power of birth. I was in awe of the fact that I was actually labouring as opposed to supporting someone in labour. It was surreal to be on the other side of the experience.
Our care team arrived and everyone surrounded me with their strength and support and I remember feeling completely safe in the arms of my husband, Tim, and in the sacred space that the other women held for us. I spent the majority of the time labouring upstairs in the bathroom which had a shower, a soaker tub and lots of space. I was most comfortable sitting on the toilet and staring out the window that was opposite me across the room. At about 1pm my membranes ruptured and our midwife announced that I was now 7cm and that we could anticipate our baby’s birth by 3:30pm. I had always planned to labour efficiently so was feeling very motivated to know that I was getting the work done as I had intended.
Labour progressed well and I have flashes of moments during this intense time. Tim never left my side and I remember trying to convey to him the intensity of each contraction but being unable to speak. They were sharp and took my breath away and I remember how helpless he appeared as he tried to do anything to ease my pain. But even though I was washed away with every rising contraction, I felt grounded and strong and not once did I feel like I needed to have pain relief. With that said, I do remember thinking that I could completely understand why women choose epidurals.
I remember thinking I would spend the majority of my labour in our tub but lying in it was excruciating so I spent time standing or squatting in ankle deep water instead. I am a little foggy on the times but I think that around 3pm, my midwife checked and I was 9.5cm dilated with a stubborn lip of cervix that remained there until 5pm. This was probably the most challenging of it all as I experienced insane contractions while at the same time getting an urge to push at the peak of the contraction. I panted my way through the urge to bear down not wanting to cause swelling on my cervix. We tried all kinds of positions and maneuvers but that lip of cervix was hanging on.
Finally, that lip moved out of the way and a powerful urge to push took over and second stage began. By this time I was sitting on the birth stool in our master bedroom and everyone had gathered close to encourage me through each surge. I was so astounded by the power of pushing. I couldn’t believe how my body just took over and I respectfully got out of my way to let it do it’s job. I will always remember Tim telling me that he couldn’t believe the muscles in my back that would tense and appear with each contraction. There is nothing as magnificent as witnessing the incredible strength and endurance of birth.
I pushed for just under 2 1/2 hours by the time her head started to crown. My doula helped me “pah-pah-pah” through the urges to gently ease her head out and I remember distinctly thinking to myself how funny it was that I was the one birthing and not the one guiding a woman with “pah-pah-pah’s.”
Meredith finally slipped out of my body at 7:23pm into the hands of my mother; her Nanny. At that time I was on my hands and knees so I spun around to look down at our beautiful, black haired baby. Oh she was a beauty and I couldn’t believe we had a girl! I was certain I was carrying a boy. What a pleasant surprise!
We knew her name would be Meredith Ocea and so as she struggled in those first moments, we called to her to stay with us. We called to her that we needed her here and that she belonged here with us. As most of you know, things changed in that moment which resulted in the adventure that we ultimately embarked on.
Today, on Meredith’s 11th birthday, I want to focus on her glorious birth aside from the unexpected outcome of it all. I will always be joy-filled that I was privileged to experience pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood.
Most of all, my heart is full of gratitude that we have been gifted with another year of life with Meredith. Happy Birthday, my love. May we share many more.