This story is from local prenatal massage therapist, Rebecca. I'm including a portion of the story from the birth of her first son, Shawn, because I love the thoughts her mother shares. The second part is the story of her second son's birth, also born at home.
Shawn was born after 15 hours of slow and intensely painful labor. That experience was both terrifying yet thrilling. At one point while I was nearing transition, I was crying and I looked up at my mother and said, “Mom, I can’t do this. I am going to die. I am going to die.” She looked right back at me and said, “You know what, Rebecca? You ARE going to die. The carefree maiden you have been all your life is dying. You are giving birth to yourself, as a mother. It is the hardest thing you have ever had to do. And you CAN do it, because look at you – you ARE doing it!”
My mother always viewed birth as a rite of passage, a spiritual transition, an initiation into a new realm. She firmly believed that a woman must put her blood, sweat, and tears on the line for the child she was birthing – that it was an opportunity to demonstrate that she had the strength to be a mother....
This was not a time to avoid pain, because motherhood is painful at times. This is not a time to seek comfort, because motherhood is not comfortable. This is not a time to shrink back, because motherhood requires that a woman reach deep inside her soul and show what she really stands for. It is in birth, my mother taught me, that a woman must stand up, show her trust in herself, and her trust in God, and be consciously involved in a deliberate act of creation by giving your heart, might, mind, and strength to what is before you.
As the contractions began the morning of September 13, 2008, I did not really think I was in labor. I focused on being as relaxed as possible, allowing my body to do what it needed. These early contractions were welcomed, and they even felt invigorating like a good workout. Around 3 p.m. they jumped to 3 minutes apart, but still were not painful. How was that even possible? My midwife Chris arrived at 4:45 p.m. and shortly thereafter, hard labor kicked in. The contractions became much more intense and I could not talk through them, but again, they were not painful, just lots of pressure. I got in the birthing tub around 6 p.m. and continued to remain as relaxed as possible. My mind knew what to expect, and I opened to it. I even observed those thoughts of dread going through my head like “I can not do this. Do I really have to do this again? This is not happening already!” – but because of my mindfulness focus, I was able to simply notice the thoughts and I did not have to react to them. (By the way, every woman in labor says “I can’t do this” and usually does so right when birth is imminent!) I surrendered to each contraction, much like one would surrender to contractions of the respiratory diaphragm when vomiting or sneezing. As I reclined against the wall of the birthing tub, I repeatedly whispered to myself “Just feel this. Just feel what this feels like.” I just observed my body in the process, doing what it knows instinctively to do. My body was shaking uncontrollably as the baby descended down the birth canal. I felt like I had to go to the bathroom, and I warned my midwife. She said, “Honey, that’s the baby’s head.” I couldn’t believe it. I reached down and sure enough, there was his wrinkly little head beginning to crown. The contractions continued and it actually felt so good to feel him moving down the birth canal. (I would say I “pushed” but it actually felt effortless, like I was being pushed.)His head was fully born in about two contractions, but his shoulder became stuck. After about thirty seconds, my midwife said “stand up,” which I couldn’t, until she took both my hands, with my arms and back stiff as a board, and pulled me up like a lever so I could bend over the edge of the birthing tub. She came around to my backside, and with one final, intense push, he was born with the assistance of gravity. I could not believe it when he was out. He was born at 6:32 p.m., less than two hours after hard labor began. He was 9 ½ pounds, and my body suffered zero damage or tearing during delivery. (I am only 5’3”). I sat back down in the birthing tub and clutched him to my chest. The experience was so ecstatic, so joyful, and so incredibly wonderful. The first thing I said was, “That was awesome!" While the physical sensations I experienced were very intense, it was not painful. It did not hurt! It was truly, transformative, and I attribute much of the wonder of the experience to my commitment to birthing mindfully and willingly, to fully experience whatever it is that is before me. I felt like the queen of the world—a true Goddess in Embryo. I wish all women could feel what it is like to give birth without fear and to fully know what they are capable of.