Karena's Birth Story
I told her "I think," but I knew. I was nervous. The creaky steps to her home assured me that she was running to the second floor to find my voice. I squatted over the toilet sure that the extra gush of fluids had nothing to do with what I'd drunk.
"What! Are you sure?" My mother lowered her head to see.
My daughter was due a day earlier, and all the anxiety I held for her to hastily come suddenly went away. I felt like the "all in" bluffer at a high-end poker game whose opponent tapped the table twice instead of folding. Oh Shit. It's really time, I thought.
"It broke alright. Whoa!" My mother was excited and attentive.
"Thanks mom." I placed the towels around the toilet and put one between my legs. She went downstairs and I followed behind, wobbling like a penguin while trying to keep the cloth in its place.
I reached for my phone. "My water broke!" I explained to The Midwife Center answering service operator.
"Ok, I'm going to have the midwife on call contact you", he assured after asking a couple questions. I sat on a cushioned seat for a moment. It soaked up the fluids coming from me and my mother told me to sit up and walk around for a while so I made some peanut butter toast.
"Relax, make something to eat, and if you can, get some rest." I thought of what the nurse Pricilla said at the child birthing essentials class I took.
"You can not eat!!"
"Mom, yes I can. I'm not going to the hospital and it makes sense to eat. I'll need the energy." I took a big bite.
My mother rolled her eyes. "You don't listen." She told me like I'd pay for it later.
That infamous iPhone ring pulled us back to our corners like two boxers before we could land any punches around the topic.
I answered it. "Hello."
"Karena?" The midwife did not assume anything.
That was quick. I thought. "Yes." In a flash I felt at ease.
"Hi, it's Ann from The Midwife Center. I'm not sure if we got a chance to meet but tell me a little about what's going on."
"Yes, you're the one appointment I missed." The office staff tried to make sure I met every midwife, but I missed out on meeting Ann. I explained what all took place letting her first know that I slept half the day for the first time during my pregnancy. It did not bother me that I did not meet her. I trusted the place where I was giving birth so I knew that I could trust their staff. I told Ann everything to bring to her speed.
"Well that's wonderful that you've gotten some rest. So your water broke about 20 minutes ago and it's leaking as we speak so we'll say things started around 3:30. I say make you something to eat and relax. Try to labor at home for a little while and let's meet at the Center about 7 o'clock. Does that sound alright with you?"
"Seven?" I wondered if that time was to far away for my comfort.
"Yes. Seven. This is your first birth and the labor for first births is normally longer than others so I just want to give you some time to labor at home."
I understood and agreed on the time and began making calls so that everyone would be on time meeting us there. In total there would be about nine people in the room to support me, exclusive of the Midwife and Nurse. My mother, sisters and best friend would be leaving with me. My other sister, three friends, and Doula would be meeting us there.
For a moment I looked at my contacts and wished I had his number. I wanted him to be there because he should be there. He'd told me: "You're going to do it alone. I'm not going to be there. Period." And stood firm on those words. I tossed my phone over my lap. It was pointless to want something in that moment that I would not have.
My bags were at the door and the clock on the guide read five something. It was absolutely closer to five than six. I was looking at the television but was not paying attention to what was running. My mind was set on working myself up for what was coming. And then it came. It came like a storm on a clear-skied sunny day. My feet hit the carpet. With the labor pains I wanted to be off the couch.
"It's not even 6 yet?" My mother reasoned when I asked if we could head out.
I rocked back and forth pushing my pelvic bone front and back. I walked around and realized that my contractions were too close for me to stay home any longer. So I told my mother again with a voice that would hear no reasoning. "It's time to go mommy."
The drive there was most uncomfortable. My mother managed to hit every pothole and it seemed that the roads in my city were less smooth than usual. I clicked my seat belt off and squatted in the front seat. Sitting was not good for my pains. The contractions were hitting me more frequently and were lasting longer than usual. Imagine someone making jagged cuts inside your stomach with a razor blade without tearing through the other side of the skin tissue and then they use their hands to pull the skin apart. This is how best I can describe a contraction. They are the worst menstrual cramps magnified.
I flashed back a few months and during one of the classes a woman was in labor and gave birth in one of the rooms downstairs. "Rooooooooooooooooaaaarrrrrrrrrrrr." She screamed like a man who was pushing a football out. Every expecting mother looked around. Big eyed, seemingly we all were thinking about the epidural we could have, but wouldn't.
It was my turn to scream now and none of what I'd seen or heard mattered. I understood it would be painful and I had a positive and supportive birthing team who all knew that our approach to this was natural. But what I was feeling proved to be tougher than I imagined and I never felt more relieved to arrive to a destination.
Arriving at The Midwife Center
Ann greeted us at the door. The room was warm. The air smelled like fresh spring air. And I was glad it smelled nothing like a hospital's air because that smell made me feel sick. The walls were painted a calming blue. There were seashells throughout the room. The Queen Size post bed was sturdy and ready for everything. I know it told stories of how well it handled the craziness. I wish it had talked to warn me of the memories it knew. Nonetheless another memory was in the making and this one was my own.
"Karena, you want me to start running some warm water for you?" Ann's voice was soothing. She seemed like an experienced midwife. She rested her hand on my shoulder and rubbed down my arm lightly. This was my first time meeting her. Oddly her presence gave me hope that this would be the type of birth I wanted it to be. I felt connected to her immediately. Her aura was wonderful.
"Yes, thank you." I was unashamed taking every piece of fabric off of my body. For reasons I cannot explain it felt so good, and was most comfortable, to be nude. Cheryl, the nurse and lactation consultant, who also facilitated a helpful breastfeeding class, was the sweetest person to ever put a needle in me. I had to have a bag or so of antibiotics because I tested positive for GBS, which is an infection that one in four women have while pregnant. Though it goes unnoticed and has no symptoms it could make an infant very ill. She hooked the tube to me and Ann checked to see where I was.
I was six centimeters dilated. Ann was surprised but unafraid, so I felt everything was smooth. I thought I'd get into the tub and imitate the woman from a YouTube video I seen who appeared to be in utter bliss instead of in labor.
Squatting and rolling my hips around and around I worked on focusing. Within five minute I understood that there would be no enjoyment of the tub or any blissful laboring. I would be calm though and endure so that my body could labor down. My Doula, Kelly, took charge pouring the warm water over me with a basin. This helped a lot and soothed me.
It was too uncomfortable in the position I was in so I came out from the hot tub and Kelly continued to work her awesomeness.
"Put your forearms on my shoulder and bear your weight down on me." She showed me how. I did. And in these moments I could not have pictured my birth without her or anyone else who was there.
"Hmmmmm Karena. Within." Ann chimed, in and then stepped away to do some paper work. I could hear my family in the room talking quietly answering questions of those who came in late. My mother and doula remained in the bathroom with me.
Cheryl would come in and check the baby's heart rate and then give us our time again. I really appreciated that they allowed us to have some moments alone.
"Now breathe in and out like this, Karena." Kelly demonstrated.
I rocked from side to side sucking in air through fish like lips and heavily blowing it out like I was trying to make smoke donut rings. The last of the air I always blew out without any pulse interjection.
In between contractions I hummed. I grabbed for my Kelly. I grabbed for my mommy. This stance was genius. It still hurt, but I felt in control of my body each time again.
"Shhhhhhh." I heard someone tell my brother's mother. "She wants it quiet in here, Tiny." It was my mother who was being the room police for me.
Despite my brother and I having different mothers, Ma Tiny, as I called her, and my mom got along well enough to share this moment with me together.
"I can not believe she is so quiet." I heard her bangles. She was coming towards the bathroom. I always liked them but they annoyed me more then anything right now.
She rubbed my back. "You're doing so good boo boo."
"Ummmm hmmmm ma Tiny, thx."
And in the second after, I almost lost my peace and focus because a set of flashes blinded me. I heard a pulling click sound following another flash. And another. And another. Ma Tiny was taking photos of me with a disposable camera.
"Stooop ma Tee!!!" My teeth were clenched together. Everyone else in the room and even in the world had a digital that could work well without a flash. Not her though. Of coarse not her. She stopped and a break from the gut pain for me arrived. Slowly I walked out of the bathroom and asked my midwife to check how far along I was.
"Oh my Karena, you're almost 8 centimeters. You're in active labor now."
I labored for more time. Using the stand and bear down method. After maybe a half hour I calmly informed Ann, "I want to push now." I asked, "Could you check me?"
She looked at me with assuring eyes. What ever I needed she was willing to assist. She did. "Almost Karena. You're there. 9 centimeters."
"Could you help me please?"
"Sure Karena. I can push the skin back."
She did. "This is going to be uncomfortable Karena."
It hurt. I raised my voice a bit, "Wait!"
It was done though.
"Never mind." I resolved feeling that I could push now.
"Karena, your brother is on the phone." I heard the bangles again but did not look up towards her. I was squatting trying to push with the back of my elbows resting on the bed. My cousin stood behind me in case my legs lost their strength. I wanted my brother to be here, but speaking with him on the phone at this point was beyond improbable. It was not happening. Family looked upon family and everyone agreed that all of us were crazy so this was not unexpected.
"Ma Tiny, I'm pushing Neima out. Tell him-Tell him I love him and will talk to him later." I was breathing like I ran a marathon. The only point during labor when I got a real breather was the time between my contractions once I fully dilated. I used that time to answer her. She went back out the door and into the hallway rambling about how I was composing myself.
The squatting position was not working. I tried a couple other positions before resorting to my bum. For three hours I pushed. Kelly rubbed me. My sisters and friends looked on giving me strength. My cousin and best friend were supportive, one sitting behind me rubbing a cool rag over my head every so often. My mothers and Ann assured me that I was doing it and would get it done. Cheryl ran back and forth checking my daughter's heart rate, feeding me ice, and warm muffins topped with honey.
"You need the calories for energy Karena. Come on push, she's right there?" Ann played with the inch long black hair crowning from my bottom.
Neima was effaced. This met that her face was upward where as babies are face down until their head is out and then they turn around so that the shoulders can maneuver through easily. This is why it took so long. But ahhhh haaa finally she was coming over the hump.
"Slow. Slow. Slow-slow-slow." Ann helped me to not tear badly.
"Hhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmmhaaaaaaahhhhhaaaaaahhhhhaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh" I pushed through the ring of fire my mother told me about and her head was out. This ring was explained to me in depth. I could not understand what my mother was sharing with me when she explained it until I felt it. She beamed, "When the head is really coming out and she's not crowning anymore your thing is gonna burn all around and I'm telling you there's a song about the "Ring of Fiiiiiiiire." She passed the wisdom down and sang some rock song. The burn was real. I felt like it looked like the circle the circus employee sets on fire for the lion to run through.
I heard Ann's voice again. "Wait-Wait. Wait-Wait. Wait-Wait Karena."
I submitted, "Ok."
"We've got a triple here. We're going to need some oxygen." Ann talked out loud. And Cheryl started running around again. She was running to get the tank Ann needed. The room was quiet.
Tilting my head back, feeling Ann's hand press against my body's response to push, I wondered why we paused.
I had no idea that the umbilical cord was wrapped around my baby's neck three times. In the home video, Ann unwrapped the cord quicker than a child unveiling gifts on a holiday. We all were fortunate.
"Ok Karena. Come on." My midwife did not even sound worried.
I pushed her 6 pound, 14 ounce body out. She screamed and was placed on my chest. The oxygen mask shadowed her mouth for a little while. She was ok and was beautiful. I looked up and saw everyone wiping his or her cheeks. I wanted to cry, but couldn't produce the tears.
Everyone told me after the birth that they could not believe how I managed to be so polite and calm. I did not have an answer then but rather just smiled. It was because of them apart from God's design of the female body. I remember thinking of what, for me, came to be the teaching philosophy of The Midwife Center - we're made to do this. We're made to do this the way it should be done.
I was inspired. Albeit I could not imagine lifting my leg I was stronger than ten hurricanes. I did something that made me feel more powerful than every world leader combined, than the Lion in the Safari, than the Orca in the sea. Never in my life had I felt more pleased of the decisions I made. And never in my life had I found myself in a place that supported my decisions, that removed my fears, and that put me in a mindset that showed me that every thing could be the way I needed it to be as long as I put myself there.
The Midwife Center educated me and enhanced my understanding of such a concept. Ann and Cheryl and my doula, Kelly, supported me, working their birthing wisdoms through me, and my family quietly and sometimes loudly spread their energy of "you can do it." I looked around, holding my daughter close to my chest. If there was one person who was not there, I did not realize it then. The births team in my life held no room for another person. They all were so wonderful that my thoughts could not reflect on the "what not's." There was no missing piece because the picture was perfect in its flaws. I was happier than ever before. I kissed Neima, talked a little, and Ann came in to chat for a moment.
She sat on the bed. "You were awesome, Karena. I will never forget this birth." She told my family and friends that they were a great team.
"Thank you, Ann. No, you guys were awesome. Thank you so m-Are you PREGNANT?!" I could not believe I was seeing a little bump and since I reacted I sure hoped she was because I did not want to offend anyone.
"Yes." She smiled. Her glow was more obvious to me. This could have been why we connected so well. I had been happy but I became happier because a pregnant midwife birthed my Neima. For me it was just awe-inspiring that another woman in that condition could be as wonderful as Ann had been. We went back and forth about details of her baby bump and talked more about what I could expect from my new baby.
Ann left again to finish her paperwork and in came the lovely nurse Cheryl a tray with an egg and cheese omelet and orange juice in hand. In usual form, as with everything in my life, something has to happen before the smoke completely clears, and like so the tray tipped onto the bed making a mess on the unused side. I could blame it on the number of people that were in my room. I imagine that having so many people there was unusual. But it did not even matter. I was so ready for some rest that it did not even push me to move or care. In less than a half hour, when I did get up to use the bathroom, the bedding was changed. I enjoyed a new tray of breakfast. And in perfect fashion everyone left except two of my best friends. They shared the bed with Neima and I. I was not alone and my moment could not have felt more complete.
We slept for a few hours. Maybe five hours in total. We were ready to leave by one that day. Nurse Diana came on shift and gave us our final look over. Before we left she brought in a purple Midwife bag. This was my life bag with coupons, baby soaps and things for mommy. I was pleased to leave with the bag and more importantly with my swaddled daughter.
I want to say Thank You to my team- Midwife Ann, Nurse Cheryl, and Nurse Diana. You all were the best in that moment. I will forever be grateful for your wisdoms and abilities that you performed. I love you sisters for being such powerful women in a world that is seemingly working towards taking the power out of the woman or that is at the least not assuring her of her power or encouraging her to tap into that power.
Childbirth is everything. For me it was a spiritual ritual that awakened the better in me and opened the door between me and the beautiful soul that grew inside of me. I love your lives and I love you all for making natural birth a possibility. Thank you to the office staff, Nurse Pricilla, Nurse-Practitioner Dana and every midwife and nurse I met because all of you were wonderful and what you do is moving. Please continue to exist - whenever I am ready again and however many times I may be ready again I want to be at the Birthing Center giving birth. I cannot thank you enough for carrying out the purposes you all hold. My life has been touched.
Lots of Peace and Love,