The moment I realized there is power in what I do was when…
…I decided to proactively facilitate the natural birth of my fourth child.
Honestly, a large part of my choice was based on a spiritual, emotional, and physical curiosity that couldn’t be satisfied any other way.
My first three children were all born in a “routine” manner. My inexperience, anxiety and ambivalence kept me from managing my own body during the process. I was shaky, nervous, and mostly numb from the epidurals. I felt somewhat unengaged while waiting for the nurses and doctors to tell me what I was supposed to be feeling. But with each birth, I conquered some of my insecurities, gained courage to speak for myself, and developed the desire to understand my body.
My choice to deliver naturally had nothing to do with assuming a new identity, turning my back on the medical establishment, or changing the way I raise my children. It was more personal than that. No breathing classes. No birth plan. I had spiritual peace and emotional resolve. I felt like anything else would cloud my judgment and feed my propensity to over-think everything.
Prior to getting pregnant, I started working out. I wanted to be physically prepared and strong, to match my new-found sense of empowerment. I ran five days a week (2-3 miles) and did twenty minute Pilates workouts. These continued through the first twenty weeks of pregnancy. After stopping the Pilates workouts, I continued with pre-natal stretching and toning exercises. I cut my “runs” in half, jogging at least one mile five times a week up until I was 32 weeks along. The exercise was absolutely essential for two reasons. The first is a simple case of classic conditioning. By pairing the same music (known affectionately as “my running mix”) with the endorphins and adrenaline of running, I conditioned a physical and emotional response of relaxed familiarity, energy and strength. The other reason is that I felt strong. I felt good! Memories of my third pregnancy and debilitating muscle pain, were almost enough to deter me from a fourth. But, with the stretching and toning during this last pregnancy I experienced very little of that in comparison.
All four of my babies tried to come early. An ultrasound at 36 weeks showed the baby to be a healthy 6 lbs or more. After a few more days of self imposed bed rest, I decided it was time to head to the hospital.
I always give the medical staff plenty of warning that “I go quickly,” and “My labor goes really fast.” But they never seem to believe me. Once the doctor broke my water, I started feeling the contractions. The nurse got me a giant birthing ball, and I bounced on it for the next 30-45 minutes.
Then it happened. A flash of awareness beat through my body, shooting from my toes and out through the hairs of my head, giving me goosebumps. I said to the nurse, “Uh, I feel weird.” And then I felt the craziest pain coupled with the most gut-wrenching primal urge.
The feeling of pushing through a contraction is beyond my ability to describe. Surprisingly, I don’t associate it with any pain. It felt amazing. Like satisfaction, strength, instinct, relief, force and pure energy.
Nurses were shouting at me, trying to get my attention, “Amy! The doctor isn’t here yet. Don’t push!” I screamed back at them through another contraction, “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry! I have to! I have to push!” Someone shouted, “Heads out! Baby’s head is out!” The baby’s head was now resting on the mattress. I heard my doctor’s voice as she entered the room. She said, “Amy, don’t push!” But it was too late. I could feel the next contraction. The doctor rushed over to lift the baby’s head and ease out his shoulders as I pushed.
Done. I collapsed. I was in shock. Overcome with exhaustion, yet super-charged by adrenaline and emotion. They placed Sam on my chest and he blinked up at me quietly. Still covered in fluids, he cleared my confusion with the patient light of an old soul in his eyes. Observant, round, and healthy. Chubby serenity. Sam.
Photos by Amelia Kate Photography.