Though it was long, arduous, and at times I wanted to die and have it over with, Maya was worth every moment of misery I experienced. I never thought I could love a human being so much. I guess the Magic Mommy Fairy Dust worked!
On Friday the 16th I woke in the morning to find a little liquid running down my leg, which I thought was the bag of waters (though it turned out to only be a "leak". I began having contractions during the day, though they were not any closer than 15 minutes apart. I called our midwife, Mireia, to let her know what was happening and she told us we'd probably be having the baby sometime within the next day.
By evening things had not picked up very much, so we decided to go to bed and get some rest. At 2:30 am I was awakened by stronger contractions and began to time them again. Now they were closer and had become much more difficult to get through. Though I was managing still, we called Mireia around 9 am Saturday morning to tell her what was happening. She arrived at about 2 pm and checked my progress. Despite having had a week's worth of pre-labor contractions, then more for most of the night, it turns out I was only 1 cm dilated! She stretched me to 2 cm, which nearly made me fly through the ceiling, then she offered to try some foot reflexology on me to encourage things to move along.
This was no relaxing foot rub! She really worked on certain points in my feet which, when she dug in with her fingers, made me scream. After a few minutes on one foot I started sobbing. It certainly got things moving on both a physical and emotional level.
As things were moving along quite slowly, Mireia decided to leave for a little while so things could progress more, and suggested we take a short walk around the neighborhood before the sun went down. So out we went, with me moving at a snail's pace. We made it about a block before I felt I really needed to head back. I had to stop a couple of times for contractions along the way.
At this point everything starts to get very fuzzy. I believe I retreated to the bedroom where I sat on my birthing ball, leaning on the bed with my head on my arms for what could have been a few hours. As things got more intense I decided to try out the shower. What an amazing pain reliever! As soon as I stepped in there the contractions got a little more bearable.
Sometime during all this, around 7 pm, Mireia came back and got the birth pool set up downstairs. Roland came in and said there had been a small incident downstairs. Someone had forgotten to open the fireplace flue, so when they started the fire the house filled with smoke. Roland managed to straighten it all out so that by the time I came downstairs to step into the pool I wouldn't have known there had been a problem. I can just imagine having to run out of the house in the middle of labor while the fire department put out the flames!
It was a lovely sight seeing the birthing pool in front of a cosy fire. When I stepped into it I felt I never wanted to go anywhere else. It was like a natural epidural. This is where I really don't remember much except that, even with the aid of the pool, the contractions were excruciating and not much progress was being made. Though I had heard that there wasn't supposed to be pain in between contractions, I didn't experience this.
We decided to try to get some sleep, if possible, so lay down in bed, where I managed to drift off occasionally. But at this point, even between contractions I was in constant pain. After perhaps a couple of hours of this things got to the point where I couldn't stand another minute. I pleaded with poor Roland to do something to end this horrible suffering. I said I'd rather die than endure this any longer. He left me to use the bathroom for a few minutes, and while there the contractions began to feel slightly different. They were still awful, but I had something of an urge to push, which made things somehow more bearable.
Roland joined me in the bathroom and sat beside me, himself in tears about not being able to relieve me of this misery and not sure as to what to do. At about 5 am Sunday morning we came downstairs to where Mireia was napping on the couch, and when she heard the sounds I was making she realised I had finally made it through transition and had entered the pushing stage. This little bit of hope was enough to give me some renewed energy and it was decided that I'd try continuing to labor in there.
The warm water once again felt wonderful and I got down to the work of beginning to push Maya out. It was yet another slow process. I probably got in the pool at around 5 or 6 am. I was still pushing when lunchtime arrived, and at this point was starting to tire again, not having slept or eaten much since Friday.
Finally, I seemed to feel something progressing down and reached down to find Maya's head only about two inches in, which was heartening. Then some time later I could feel the unbroken bag of waters begin to bulge out. I kept pushing, though things were starting to get really painful again. Juliette crouched beside the pool and held my hands while I was pushing, which kept me going, as I really needed someone to hold onto. I once more began to lose faith that I could push this baby out, as the head was emerging seemingly millimeter by millimeter, despite my strenuous pushes. At the point where I thought my body was going to be completely torn apart, the head was only showing a diameter about the size of a lime.
When it seemed I could push no more without dying, her head finally emerged, and the pain was so great that I just wanted to get her out as fast as possible, so I kept pushing, but I was told to stop pushing! Stop?! You've got to be kidding. But then Mireia urgently shouted that I had to quickly get out of the pool and onto all fours. I had no idea what was going on, but I leapt out and got down, pulling the chair in front of the fireplace down on top of me in the process, which I really didn't even notice. I felt Mireia reaching in to do something to the baby, all the while urging me to keep pushing as hard as I could, which I was already doing. I felt something move a bit and was surprised the baby still had not come out all the way. She told me to push more, which I did until I thought I would burst, and the rest of the baby finally emerged.
I reached down between my legs and picked her up. She was already squirming and began to cry, pinking up quickly, which was reassuring. Her cries were very gurgly, but they were good to hear. I was helped over to the couch, baby still attached by the cord, and was able to lie down with her in my arms. There is nothing to compare with that moment of finally being pain-free and having this wonderful new little person beside me. She had her eyes open and was taking everything in, especially me. At one point just a few minutes after she was born she gazed at me with this look of intense concentration like she had been sent to deliver an important message. I was totally in love.
It turns out Maya had double shoulder dystocia, one shoulder being caught behind my pubic bone and the other behind my tail bone, so Mireia had to reach in with both hands and turn her so she could get out. Mireia did an outstanding job of dealing with what could have been a very serious situation. She had such a calm, warm and reassuring manner that I trusted her completely. The world needs more great midwives like her! No obstetrician could have done a better job.
While it was not quite the peaceful, gentle home birth I had been hoping for, nevertheless it was still a lot better than any I could have had in a hospital here, the midwife care was magnificent, and I got to relax with my baby in my own home and bed immediately after the birth.
Maybe one of the most miraculous things was that after such a long, hard labor, and birthing a 4.45 kilo (9 pound 13 oz.) baby, I had not torn at all!
I look forward to learning all Maya has to teach me, and am really glad I have the opportunity to experience one of the most transformative things one can experience in life. I feel very lucky. :-)