I helped a woman give birth back in January. For several days afterwards, I wanted to tell the whole world. Wrapped on my car, printed on my t-shirt, flag in my yard, written on my face, "I just helped a woman give birth!" I was left with a sense of joy and living in a new world. I had experienced these same feelings with the birth of my own children. Being part of bringing new life into the world is profound no matter what.
It started when I met with her about CAFE, a local food network where we both volunteer. She was just a few months pregnant and expressed an interest in some prenatal yoga sessions. So, we did some private sessions. Once she entered her third trimester, she said she was still looking for a doula but could not find one. She totally reeled me in despite my uncertainty.
I went to a yoga workshop and talked with a couple of people about possibly helping at a birth. One person said, "When someone asks me to help her at her birth, I ask 'Are you comfortable with me seeing you naked?' You will know based on how she answers." How she answers, mind you. Not what she answers. Okay, so I see her at the CAFE Christmas party, and there I asked her, not exactly in front of a bunch of people, but a bunch of people were around. I asked with my hesitation glimmering in the background, "Are you comfortable with me seeing you naked?" "Yes." She said. She said in the most definite, this is how it should be kind of way. So, who am I to argue with a pregnant woman about who should help her at her birth?
After this, I went to her house weekly, and we prepared for her labor and delivery as well as practiced breathing and postures to make the final days of pregnancy easier. I also shared with her my two birth experiences.
I went with her and dad-to-be to one of their appointments with the nurse midwife practice. My acupuncturist gave me some information about acupressure for pain relief during labor and childbirth. I pored over how to be a good helper, knowing it would all be fine. Still, I had waves of "Holy crap! I'm going to help someone give birth!" that passed through me frequently in addition to something of an identity crisis.
The day came, it was sleeting, and I went to her house to help her and dad get on the road to the hospital that was an hour away in Greenville. When we got there, the nurses discovered she was 6cm dilated. A little later we stood in the labor room under glaring lights, amongst wires and beeps. Mom was leaning against the wall while the midwife looked for baby's heartbeat. I stood next to imminent dad speechless an gawking until the midwife said something to mom about swaying her hips and bending her knees. My reaction was visceral but still a little paralyzed as I stepped toward her to help her as she labored. They spent an hour getting the room ready and admitting her while we walked the hall.
We got her into the birthing pool. Mom was completely and utterly trusting all of us. I watched someone completely surrender that day to the people helping her and to the pain of labor. Once we got her in the pool, the nurse led her through a light breathing technique. Ugh! That's supposed to be me! The lights had dimmed by that time. Easy music was playing. It became urgent for me to step and and do what I was there to do. The nurses left, waving quietly. I went to work. We breathed together. I pressed acupressure points, I soothed her, dad soothed her, we got cool cloths for her forehead. We helped her stand up knowing how monumentally hard it would be for her to move, but we had to because they could not find the baby's heart beat. She did it.
The midwife found the baby two inches away from crowning. No wonder they couldn't find the heartbeat! We helped her back into the birthing pool, and then it was time to push. For mom, it took her to her limit, but it was so easy. The birth was incredibly easy. The baby came out, and the midwife brought him out of the pool. His first cries were like, "Hey! What is going on here? Where is my home?" He looked at me sideways and cried, "You aren't where I'm supposed to be! Where am I supposed to be?!" As soon as he was in his mother's arms, he was quiet. The look he gave me was a look of great surprise with a glint of recognition. All in all mom was in active labor for about 12 hours with three of it being at the hospital.
I am so glad that it went so well and truly honored that someone would want me to be part of such an important and intimate event in their lives. For that, I will always be grateful.