Editor’s Note: Good Morning. Ah, life, how it evolves. Deepa’s column is evolving too. Today, we start the first of many amazing birth stories told through the experiences of Deepa. I’m looking forward to this change of pace, as we are set to launch a whole bunch of goodness around pregnancy and childbirth in early 2010. Hearing the incredible birth stories from women around the world will be a warm, wonderful part of it all. Enjoy. Here’s Deepa:
When she called me and calmly said that she had a couple of contractions that were 20 minutes apart, I started giving her my usual spiel about the difference between true and false labor. “Just drink a few large glasses of water, take a bath, and rest… if it’s true labor there is nothing you can do that will make the contractions go away.” She stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Deepa, the entire length of labor for my first child was 1 hour.” Needless to say, I met her at the hospital as soon as possible.
I had only met her once before in clinic. We were a practice of eight midwives in urban Portland, Oregon. Our privileges only allowed us to complete hospital births, but we had full prescriptive rights, could operate a bedside ultrasound machine and could also complete other medical tasks like well women care (i.e. paps, place IUDs, and prescribe all forms of contraception, etc.). So, even though the medical model surrounded us we worked in collaboration with it. Also, I had the great fortune of working with some radical midwives who taught me about midwifery and life equally.
When she arrived, I was in her room re-acquainting myself with her through her chart. She was tall and pretty with her salt and pepper hair separated in two braids. She had no waddle in her step. I suspect her height balanced the weight of her belly such that if you looked at her from behind there was no telling that she was carrying a child.
She seemed so much wiser than I could ever imagine being. Even though I had a Masters Degree in Midwifery, I often couldn’t shake the impostor syndrome feeling. How was I, a childless and husband-less young woman, going to help this zen woman give birth? She had done this before.
During her infrequent contractions she swayed back and forth and let out gentle moans, like a song. Although, she didn’t seem to be in rip roaring, active labor, I thought it would be a good idea to check how dilated she was since her first labor was so fast. I would soon need to set up for a delivery.
But, I really didn’t want break her trance. She was doing perfectly, and who was I to tell her otherwise. So, I decided not to check her. I thought I was being radical… until later in my life when I discovered that in other parts of the world, “hands-off midwifery” is widely and safely practiced.
I stood back attentively and let her labor supporters (husband and friend) tenderly follow her cues. In a lulled moment her husband told me that their seven year old daughter was with relatives. Suddenly, the laboring woman jumped up and grabbed the phone. I think she was even in the middle of a contraction at the time. The startle made me think that her child was coming. Then she spoke on the phone, “Yes, I just wanted to tell you that my daughter will not be coming to piano lessons today… I’m having a baby.”
At that moment, she lived in a different world than I. However now, many years later, my own daughter is taking piano lessons. Our lives are outcomes of our choices. I must have made a few right choices along the way to have ended up here with a kind husband, two loving daughters and a house full of music. It feels good wearing her shoes.
After she hung up the phone, she draped herself over the birthing bed in a sort of butterfly position. A tiny bead of sweat formed over her eyebrow, but still not a peep. So, I continued to stand back and conscientiously observe. Both of her hands rubbed over her belly in circles. She gave out a small grunt and her son slid out. This whole process was maybe half an hour and I had never seen anything like it.
I guess being with women when they give birth is about being conscious to what their needs are from you. She needed no hail Mary intervention from me. What she needed from me was silent support. Different women need different things.
Birth, like music, can be forte loud or piano soft. Sometimes the length bores you and other times it goes so fast you almost miss it. Labor can be mathematical or completely spontaneous. Sometimes you have accompaniment, other times you go solo.
They say that books find you. I think midwives and laboring moms sometimes find each other. This birth mom gave me a little foreshadowing of what life could look like. This birth validated her choices and there was no question she knew exactly what to do.
About the Author (Author Profile)Deepa is an Indian born, US raised and US trained nurse and midwife. She met her Irish husband in Afghanistan while volunteering as a midwife with MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres = Doctors without Borders). She and her family (husband and 2 young daughters) recently moved to the Comox Valley from the west coast of Scotland.
Sites That Link to this Post
- The Impact of Electronics on Climate Change | Our Big Earth | December 18, 2009