Friday, June 20, 2014


Warning:  This is a birth story.  I won't talk about anatomy or icky stuff, per se.  But it IS a birth story.  So if those generally bother you, you might want to skip it and read something else I've written.


If you had stood outside of my delivery room for the births of my first three babies, you would have heard a chorus of voices rhythmically counting like this:


My mom would have been the loudest, followed by the nurses.  But you would not have heard me.  I was quiet.  Silent, actually.  It was all very calm and controlled, and the only ones talking were the ones not having the baby.

If, however, you had stood outside of my delivery room for the birth of my fourth and final baby, you would have heard something quite different.

There was no rhythmic counting. No chorus of voices.  Just one--and it was very, very loud--bellowing,


The chorus of others' voices chimed in only after this screaming declaration.  They had to.  Because, you see, I was standing up, and they were determined not to let me give birth that way.  My dear doctor told me I had to climb onto the bed to have my baby and, had I not been in agony, I would have laughed at her. How could I move?  I could hardly remember to breathe!

But somehow I did climb on that bed.  And within a minute or two of (as my poor mother put it) "screams from the pit of hell," my beautiful baby girl was born.

The difference, of course, was the epidural.  With my first three babies I was in a blessed state of numbness by the time of delivery.  My third son's birth in particular had been a highly traumatic experience--arriving too early to hospital, having my water broken after things slowed down, multiple interventions by the presiding physician.  At one point during labour, after a terrible, unhinging contraction, I rolled over to my side and thought,

"Oh, I see.  100 years ago I would have been one of those women who died during childbirth."

After that contraction, the doctor called for the epidural.

Determined never to have such an unhinging experience again, I prepared very carefully for Juliette's birth.  I bought two books, one called "The Birth Partner" written by a midwife and the other a birth philosophy book written someone who started the Hypnobirthing movement.  I took notes on both books, instantly integrating what they recommended with my own experience of what had worked and not worked in my previous births.  Matt and I had lots of conversations about what we would do differently this time.  I practiced what they preached by way of relaxation techniques in the weeks leading up to the birth.

And, to my utter amazement, practice made perfect.  A combination of "The Big Bang Theory" playing on the television, one of Matt's carabiners as a focal point, and simply doing the relaxation techniques as I had practiced led me to not ask for an epidural once I got to the hospital.  They measured me at 6 centimetres dilated when I was admitted, and I felt very comfortable refusing the offer to call the anesthesiologist.  I didn't want anything to slow my little girl's arrival, and I instinctively knew an epidural would.

So instead, I was admitted to a little delivery room and sat on a birth ball with my doctor, the nurse, and my mother all watching me work through the contractions with moans and bobs on the birth ball.  Matt rubbed the small of my back contraction after contraction.  It was not painless, contrary to the Hypnobirthing promise, but it was surprisingly manageable.

Until that moment when the nurse took away the birthing ball to see if we could speed things up.  My doctor had just left to add more time to her parking meter, and the first set of standing contractions threw me into a tailspin.  I dropped the carabiner.  I stopped breathing and started yelling.  And I thought, for the first time that day, of getting my dear friend the epidural back in the picture.

But of course it was too late by then.  I screamed "I'M PUSHING!" because those few minutes of standing had sped things up irreversibly.  It was time to push, epidural or no.  Someone left to get the doctor, and my wonderful nurse put the carabiner back into my hands, reminding me to breathe.

Thus I was ushered into that empowering, life-altering experience all the drug-free, power-mamas promised I would have through giving birth on my own.  I thought they were lying, or exaggerating.  But they weren't.  I experienced, for the first time, birth without interference, my body leaning into instincts that had been always, by necessity, silenced and squelched by that delightful little drip in my spine.

Towards the end, I stopped trusting those instincts.  That "ring of fire" everyone talks about (but to which I had always been numb) propelled me into what I can only describe as an out-of-body experience.  And, out of body, I lost all sense of power or ability.  Breathing, groaning, circling the carabiner, all of it fell by the wayside and I could only yell, with my eyes shut, "Someone help me, please!"

Voices broke into my agony.  What they said, I can scarcely remember, but I remember knowing I was not alone.  And within a few moments, punctuated by screams I hope the world never hears again, Juliette was born.

As soon as they placed her in my arms, I apologized.  What a noisy introduction to the world, all that crazy mama birth-yelling!  It was so different from the quiet, calm environment with which each of my sons had been greeted.  What must my little girl think of me?

But I knew even then that if I had it all to do over again, I would do it exactly the same way.  I felt knit to Juliette, beautifully bound to this little creature whom I had breathed and groaned and screamed into life.  Adam declared of Eve, "Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!" and that's how I felt with my firstborn daughter.  Somehow it seemed appropriate that with her, my only living girl, I was not in any way disconnected from the agony and ecstasy of her entrance into life.

Flesh of my flesh, birthed in fire and darkness, light and joy.

Blessed am I amongst women.


  1. What a great story! Thanks for sharing.

    My two boys' births were both natural but that's where the similarities end. With Levi, I was on Pitocin for 8 hours and pushed for 3 hours. With Milo's I arrived at the hospital three weeks before his due date dilated to 7 and less than two hours later he was in my arms.


  2. See Amber, it's stories like yours that keep me nice and humble. Three hours of pushing with Pitocin-induced labour! You're amazing!