This is part one to a five part series.
These three parts are [unedited] excerpts from my book being published this fall. My book is about varying forms of loss + giving them space, uncovering gifts of grief and the fullness to life.
I believe to my core all loss counts, all loss has permission to be grieved, no loss is quantifiable. So why does it feel silly and guilt-ridden to be so bummed about our birth experience?
Our birth experience is one of my greatest losses and I am learning how to give it space in my life. It is sacred, it is vulnerable, it is hidden. I experience triggers and PTSD. It isn't fun, but I am not going to pretend it is something it isn't: I'm not going to pretend like I am okay with how our birth unfolded.
Until today, this story has been kept quiet and hidden; it's raw. It has been one year since the onset of our labor and we are approaching our son's one year birthday. My book is overflowing with vulnerable stories and raw emotion...so I figured sharing this raw story would continue to prepare me for the launch of my book.
I write + share to give myself a voice, but also to give others a voice. Loss has a way of making us lonely; I hope to create spaces for connection and community. You are not alone.
My bathroom floor was filthy.
I never liked our duplex's bathroom. It made me gag from the start. What does it say if your own home makes you gag?
Before signing the lease for this small rental, I imagined a big birthing tub smack dab in the center of its living room: I am going to deliver our baby here. It was my first thought when we viewed the place.
I sat on our filthy bathroom floor as the contractions, vomiting, and diarrhea kicked in full force. Everything suddenly wreaked sour.
How had I gone so long without scrubbing every square inch of this space? Filthy.
Leaning over the toilet I upchucked the morning's peanut butter toast.
Around 2 am my uterus alerted me letting me know today was the day, but not enough alert to call my midwife [Julia]. Six hours passed and my body flushed itself entirely, my uterus contracting fast and hard by 8 am.
These contractions were far different than my previous bouts of false labor.
I quickly downloaded a contraction-timer app unsure sure why I hadn’t yet. Consistent contractions were my cue to call Julia.
Loren doesn't work Tuesdays: good job, baby boy, you are timing this perfectly.
I looked at the timer as my contraction lightened; they averaged 3 to 5 minutes apart, 60 to 90 seconds long, gripping my entire body.
Where was my warm up? Why did labor jump to full-speed so quickly?
Most of the births I served and supported as a doula started with a sort of warm up of contractions.
I snapped a few photos of our home: I wanted to remember every detail of this day.
Loren folded mountains of laundry, scrubbed mounds of dishes, baked cookies, chopped fruits and veggies, prepared fresh juice. Sitting on our giant yoga ball I snuggled our four and a half month Sage, texting our midwife [Julia].
She lived over an hour away. Assuming my contractions remained regular, she planned to arrive this afternoon after picking her son up from school. If anything, she would check my cervix ensuring I was actively in labor.
Those few hours passed quickly. I attempted to watch Call The Midwife and sip freshly squeezed juice.
I was ready, in my element, strong.
One of the only reasons I wanted to have a biological baby was to experience the conquering of birth. The other reason was experiencing the miracle of pregnancy, feeling life swirl around inside my own body, stretching me fat.
My sister-in-law [Emily] arrived to care for little man Sage.
It was beyond important to me Sage was present while I labored: he brought me joy, he increased my oxytocin, he was about to meet his little brother. Plus, we weren't ready to be separated from him. Having Sage with us was one of the main reasons we planned a home birth.
Loren's go-go-go mode switch was flipped on, texting our family letting them know I was actively in labor: we are hoping to meet our second born this evening.
May 31, 2016. Tuesday. A good day to have a baby.
Julia arrived around 3 pm. My brutal contractions had double peaks. I breathed deeply through each one. Laying near my couch on the carpet, I stretched into child’s pose position, belly down.
Upon checking my cervix Julia noticed baby Ira was not in optimal position for delivery; she led me through the miles circuit, guiding my body to reposition him. Uncomfortable but worth it, I told myself.
Loren obsessively watched the clock, offered me cookies, water, and fresh juice. He asked how he could help. A perfect mixture of helpful and quiet, leaning in to encourage me, crossing items off of our To Do Before Baby list. Loren supported me in ways I envisioned for years.
Contractions grabbed my body. My heart pounded. I breathed through each double-peak, my contractions seemingly months long but only seconds apart. Too close. Unbelievably on top of the other for how little I was dilated and effaced.
Julia called her birth team to Portland. They set up the birthing tub. I was assigned lunges and squats, walking around the block, move this baby into optimal position.
The birthing tub offered a sweet sort of relief. I imagined delivering baby boy over and over again.
Suddenly the sun set and Tuesday came to a close. We welcomed the night.
I breathed deeply through each consuming contraction, envisioning the magical meeting moment, the moment my body released him and we met flesh to flesh.
What kept me breathing was imagining him placed on my bare chest after a long battle of labor. The meeting moment makes labor worth it. Or so I was told.
We moved from the living room to my bed. I laid on my side set up for the long night ahead. The midwives and Loren rotated their service to me; compressing my hips together at the peak of each contraction, relieving as much discomfort as possible.
Frantically, I pulled out of my exhausted, breathing techniques, helpless and hopeless, Why am I still laboring? I asked with tears in my eyes, a tremor to my voice. Twelve hours was approaching.
“Keep going, you’re doing great, you are strong, you are made for this, you are doing this. Let your body open up.” My midwives and Loren prayed over me, read scriptures to me, soothed me, guided my breathing.
Continuously they instilled in me confidence. I was strong, I was made to do this, just listen to my body and breathe.
I continued to envision the magical moment of meeting: the moment making this mountain-like feat worth it, the moment Julia or Loren placed my new swollen son directly on my chest. The moment marking itself in my physical-history as victory.
Envisioning the meeting-moment made me strong. I breathed and moaned, I visualized the moments I waited years for.
I recalled other mamas I served during labor. I recounted their strength. I imagined how hard they worked. I can do this. If they did it, I can do it. I can do hard things, I told myself.
The long night’s darkness shifted. The sun slowly sprang into the horizon, casting a sweet hue of pink and orange across the earth. Wednesday arrived hours ago, June 1st was upon us.
The twelfth hour of active labor came to a close. My birth team agreed: June 1st was a great day to have a baby.
June 1st was a perfect birthday, easy to remember, foolproof.