"birth" Mixed Media Painting by Harmony Lenasbunt 2011
I created this painting about two months ago, while waiting for my second child's Birth Day. It's a strange space to be in, waiting for your life to completely change. Not able to move forward in my own time or power, but constantly reminded that in a moments notice you are going to be hurled into transition (both emotionally and physically). It becomes a practice of letting go, allowing yourself to become powerless to the natural flow of life, giving control over to God.
The painting says, "Waiting for you, my miracle, my child, I will never find a greater joy than discovering life through your eyes."
I had been promising to share my birth story of Baby Nazareth with you for a while now. I know that this isnt a baby blog, but my children have immensely influenced my artistic process and infected me with tons of inspiration and creative energy. Being a Mom is what, I believe, made me a better artist. It certainly gave me the courage to come out of the creative closet, so to speak, and start putting my art out in the world for others to see and enjoy. My second birth was such an empowering experience and has really motivated me to "birth" a new direction for my art and creative process. So it seems fitting to share this story with you here. I actually wrote this up once already, but in all the chaos of life with 2 kids I got distracted and my computer's battery died before I remembered to save the document. So in the bit of time I have this afternoon, (3 year old son at the park with his dad, and baby boy snoozing away in his bouncer at my feet) I will attempt to share with you the experience I was given for the birth of my second child.
2am-ish: I woke up randomly. I laid there in the dark for a few moments lamenting for the millionth time the woes of being pregnant and not being able to sleep properly. Just then, I felt a tingly rush of energy travel down my belly. I stood up to go to the bathroom and felt wetness running into my pajama bottoms. I was instantly wide awake. "This is it. Today is your Birth Day." I sent thoughts to my little babe and then prayed for peace for both me and the babe that day.
I tried to go back to sleep, having gone to bed only 2 hours prior, but to no avail. As I lay there in the dark, I felt the beginnings of labor rushes starting up, dull and low, but definitely regular every 4-5 minutes or so.
I woke up my husband and he called our midwife. The same midwife who helped me through my first home delivery, and I was so happy to have her back with me in this life event again. We told her not to come yet, but wanted her to know that she would probably have a short night of sleep.
3am-ish: My contractions are still 3-4-5 minutes apart, some closer together then longer stretches, giving me lots of time to recover and rest. The pain is easily bearable, and I am so tired at this point, just from lack of sleep, that I spend the minutes in between lying on the couch trying to zone out and rest as much as possible. Then by 3:30a, I start to feel the real stuff, the dreaded back labor that paralyzed me in my first birth, it was starting to build, and I had prayed against my fear of the pain, and prepared myself for what I knew would be a very strenuous and emotional process. With each tightening in my belly, I felt the pain wrap around my middle and then explode in my lower back and travel up my spine. Lower back counter pressure and ice packs helped some, but finally I knew I needed more relief. I told my husband to call the midwife back and have her come set up the birth tub. This was one of my plans to help alleviate the back labor if it happened with this birth. (We assumed she would come set it up and then go back home for a few hours to sleep.)
3:30am-ish: My midwife arrived and we decided to do a check to see if I had made any progress (mind you I had been checked a few days before and there was no dilation with a very posterior cervix (meaning, not much had happened). We were all surprised to find that I was already a stretchy 6cm. She also found that my water bag had definitely broken but it broke high up, and therefore still had quite a bit of water left in it. She broke it lower so that the baby's head could engage the cervix better (he was tilted back a bit). She then called my second midwife and told her to start coming our way in the next hour.
4:30am-ish: My contractions are still only 3-4 minutes apart, but at this point the pain in my back is so intense that it actually isnt subsiding with the release in my belly. Kneeling in the hot shower was helping quite a bit, but I knew that we needed all the hot water we could spare for the birth tub, and once I got out the back pain returned twice as intense and almost crippling once again. My second midwife arrives at this point and offers to do the sterile water shots we had discussed the week before. I had heard of this technique as a way to naturally reduce back labor without medication and was ecstatic that my midwives were familiar and willing to do it for me should I need it. They injected saline into my back in four pressure points during a contraction, and within 5 seconds the back pain was GONE! Praise the Lord! I would HIGHLY recommend this technique to anyone experiencing back labor who wants a natural no-medication birth. With the spinal pressure no longer an issue, my belly contractions felt totally manageable and almost too easy to focus through. The tub was ready at this point and I was able to slip into warm comfort and labor away with my husband at my side.
6am-ish: I felt like my contractions were slowing a bit in the water and thought I should get some gravity help to speed things along. As much as I didnt want things to get harder, I was really motivated to have as efficient a labor process as I could manage. I got out of the water, and we did an internal check to see what was happening. This is when we found that there was still a small bulge of water bag in front of the baby's head which was keeping him from applying full pressure to my cervix. She opened up that part and allowed the head to fully descend.
We continue to labor in the living room, leaning against the couch for rest in between and then getting on hands and knees to focus and vocalize through the contractions. It was a sweet time, quiet and dark, calm music playing and just my husband, my two midwives, and myself working together as a team. By the grace of God, my three year old son was sleeping peacefully in our bedroom, totally unaware that anything was going on in the house. In the moments of calm, we would chat easily about all sorts of things as if we were just having a friendly gathering, and then when I felt the wave of energy building up and a contraction start its way down my body, I would bend down and start my focusing routine while one of my helpers rubbed down my back and legs helping me to stay relaxed. When it was over, they greeted me with words of encouragement, and I continued to feel positive, strong, and in control the entire time.
Still at this point my contractions were not so overwhelming, not at all like I remembered in my first birth experience, and only about 3-4 minutes apart, with an occasional 1-2 minute apart phase. I was convinced that it was going to take quite a few more hours before the "real" laboring and transition process started. I felt perfectly fine in between the rushes and even when in a contraction, I never felt that I couldn't handle it. This was a HUGE difference from my first labor where the back labor was completely unexpected and totally threw me off, and I frequently lost my confidence and my focus to get through the pains. I was hurting so badly that first time, that I had begun to hallucinate and think REALLY crazy thoughts, like that I could just stop being pregnant and that I changed my mind about wanting to have a baby. I got through it though, with a beautifully successful natural home birth, but in the end I felt emotionally traumatized by the physical pain I endured. Back labor is truly a beast and I was totally unprepared for it in my first birth. This time I had a plan in case it happened and it was working beautifully. The water injections had given me the relief that I needed to stay present and calm as my body did what it needed in bringing my son to me.
7am-ish: I felt the back pain start to build back up again with every rush. "Ok, there you are ridiculous insane pain. I had forgotten about you." The water injections usually block pain for 3-4 hours, and they were definitely starting to wear off. I began to feel less strong and more frantic in the height of the contractions as my back labor pains surged. (its a lot like sciatic pain, only times a billion and it shoots right up from the tail bone up your back). We decided to do another round of the saline shots so I could finish my laboring process feeling strong. I will not pretend like the injections arent painful. It was actually the only time (except at the end of the pushing stage, that I actually cried out). It feels like 4 really bad bee stings happening when you are already hurting, but within seconds the pain is gone (other than some soreness on the actual skin where the needle went in), and then the back labor just melts away. At this point, I start to feel some pressure during my contractions, and I know that my baby is almost here.
8:00am-ish: The pressure is really starting to build, and we decide to get me back into the birth tub. I still didnt feel like I was close to the transition stage yet, that dreaded phase where contractions are right on top of each other as you body finishes opening and the baby starts to descend. My contractions were still only 2-3 minutes apart, and I felt a little silly getting in the tub to start pushing, when I was sure that it would take much longer. My midwife asked me to put a finger inside to feel where the baby was, and there was his head just over a knuckle deep. I was blown away. What an amazing experience! I was almost done and still had never found a point where I felt out of control or that I couldnt do it.
In the tub I start to push lightly with each contraction. The pressure starts to get more and more intense, and I change positions to get better leverage. The contractions slow to every 4-5 or so minutes, giving me lots of time to rest in between, and the room is silent as we all wait for the next pushing contraction. I pray quietly for grace and for strength, as I am feeling that "I've been awake for almost 24 hours" jittery weakness that you get when you've had very little sleep. I push for about 20 minutes or so (my timeline is a bit fuzzy so all these times are estimations). Then with a lion-like roar and one great big push, I feel his head move through the burning of my skin stretching and then come out of my body (literally the weirdest feeling ever). We pause to check for any cord wrapping on his neck and then one final push and he's out in the water. My midwife helps bring him up to me, and I see his sweet little face for the first time as I wrap my arms around him. Only 6 hours of labor! I couldn't believe how much I instantly loved him. This time I wasnt meeting my little one at the same time as I was discovering myself as a mother. This was totally different. I've been a mother for almost 4 years now and really found a true identity for myself within that role. So this time, saying hello to my little one, I could just love on him and confidently care for him without all the bumps and bruises of the learning process to becoming a parent.
I encourage anyone having a baby to make sure you have all those three things in place for yourself, and anyone who knows someone about to have a baby to see how you can help them have one of those things. Anyway, that's my story. Thanks for listening.