I had been Amie’s doula (labor assistant) for her first birth two years prior, when she delivered a healthy, 9-pound baby girl named Kiley. With that labor, Amie had delivered very quickly, especially for a first time mom. She had handled labor with such ease and with so little pain that I was truly amazed. Amie was incredibly strong, physically and emotionally, and I wasn’t even sure she had needed my help since she had given birth so effortlessly. But because her husband, Brice, was emotionally distant, I was really her only emotional support during that labor. When she became pregnant a second time, Amie asked me to be there with her as her doula. I agreed without hesitation.
At 5 pm on Saturday night, Amie called to say she had been having contractions 10 to 15 minutes apart for the past three hours. I asked her to call me when things changed. The next morning, Amie phoned and told me her contractions had continued throughout the night. They were now 3.5 to 4 minutes apart. Amie told me that she didn’t need me to come over yet; she felt she was handling things fine, and that she wasn’t in any discomfort. Based on her first labor, though, I thought it was possible Amie would deliver before I ever got there!
After lunch, Amie called and asked me to come over to her house. She said her contractions had gotten harder, more painful, and that it had become difficult for her to walk, even between contractions.
I arrived at Amie’s house and found that she was handling her contractions well, breathing and relaxing through them. Kiley was in and out of Amie’s lap, patting her belly, asking her mom to read her books, and generally being an adorable, but needy, 2-year-old. I could tell already that this labor was quite different from the last. Amie seemed distracted somehow, not as present for this labor as she was for her first.
I felt like she needed some time away from the house, to get her focused on her labor, and not her usual responsibilities at home. So, Amie asked Brice to watch Kiley while we went outside for a walk. Sure enough, just a few steps into our walk, Amie’s contractions became more intense and more frequent.
After plenty of walking, and a bite of yogurt and banana, we headed for the Birth Center. Contractions were now 2.5 minutes apart. We arrived at the Birth Center around 8:30 pm. Brice went to the family waiting room with Kiley and got her settled in with toys and a movie. The midwife checked Amie’s cervix and said that her bag of waters was intact and that she was dilated to 5 cm.
After three more hours of walking on and off, a vaginal exam showed Amie to be 6 cm dilated. Things were progressing slowly, but Amie and the baby were both doing fine. The midwife said she wanted to break Amie’s bag of waters, hoping that it would speed up her labor. Amie agreed, and the procedure seemed to work; contractions got more powerful and the intervals between them got shorter.
Amie was doing well relaxing though the contractions and was still very much in control of her labor. We walked a little bit more, passing by the waiting room where Kiley was asleep on Brice’s lap. After Amie tired from walking, she labored upright in the bed, sitting on the birth ball, and side lying in bed.
After another three hours of labor, Amie became nauseated and vomited almost continuously for over an hour. Amie felt pressure and the urge to push, and she followed her body’s urge. I urged her not to push with any force since we weren’t yet sure if she was fully dilated. Indeed, the midwife checked her cervix and said that Amie was only 7-8 cm dilated; the midwife cautioned Amie to try not to push anymore.
That was clearly not what Amie wanted to hear; she started to shake from adrenaline, and I felt like she was starting to panic and get quite restless. She wanted to get up, squat, and do something different. I encouraged her to take deep breaths and to relax as much as possible. I breathed with her, and I massaged her tense shoulders and back. In so many ways, this labor felt like a first, not a second.
Kiley woke up and started crying for her mom. Brice brought Kiley into the room to see Amie, who was lying on her side in bed. As soon as Amie took Kiley in her arms, she stopped shaking. It was just incredible to see how much Kiley’s presence calmed Amie. She placed Kiley on her extended arm, and Kiley soon fell asleep. They looked so peaceful, lying there together; no one would have guessed that Amie was in the last stages of labor. Amie labored that way for about 15 minutes and, when labor strengthened, she asked Brice to take Kiley to the waiting room.
As soon as Kiley was out of the room, Amie told me that she needed to get out of bed. I helped her out, and she squatted at the side of the bed. I sat on a stool, and she flung her arms over my knees for support. Two contractions later, the baby was crowning. Amie pushed one more time and the head was born, with one hand up by the baby's head. Amie pushed one more time and the baby's shoulders were born. With the next push, the baby was born, a beautiful, 10 pound, 20-inch baby girl! Paige Marie was vibrant and healthy and huge! Amie brought Paige up to her chest and carried her the few steps to the bed. Paige latched on and began breastfeeding right away.
Within minutes, Brice brought Kiley into the room, and they both climbed into bed with Amie and the baby. The emotions caught up with Brice, and he cried and cried, gently stroking the top of Paige’s head. Kiley crawled up right next to her mother, sat on a pillow, and looked down over Amie’s shoulder at her new baby sister serenely nursing. Amie looked radiant, every bit the mother goddess that she was. I felt so privileged to be there for Amie and her family, and especially honored to have been there for two of Amie’s births.
Our connection with one another remained strong, even after Paige’s birth. So strong, in fact, that Amie asked me to be by her side during her next three births. Each of those births was as different from the other as the second was from the first; it reinforced my belief that a woman’s birth experience is an opportunity to confront her fears, to learn about herself, and to grow as a person. For each of Amie’s births, she was presented with a new and different challenge. And, each time, she met it with an inner strength and fortitude that was inspirational and instructional, not only about birth, but about living life and confronting its trials with grace.