(Written a few years back)
She was in labor and she was hitting transition: the stage when even the toughest women feel like giving up. She came out of the bathroom and addressed myself and the midwife, Rebeccah, asking, “do you care if I just strip this off?” We assured her she could labor naked; we’d seen it all before. I was glad that she felt comfortable enough in this space to do so. In the hospital it’s not always easy to protect the sacred birthing space, especially for a woman who is being induced… but this small interaction assured me that we were doing just that.
Her partner made us giggle as he told her, “I’d prefer it if you did.” She sat on the big round birthing ball, hands on her thighs, moaning and yelling her baby down. He sat behind her on the side of the bed, rubbing her low back. I crouched in front on her, keeping baby on the monitor, as necessitated by the pitocin drip she was on. Yet I did not lose sight of what was real: this warrior woman working so hard to bring her baby earthside. She rocked side to side on the ball and a few contractions I offered to let her hug me, her sweaty naked body pressed against my scrubs, her head resting on my shoulder. It was comfortable, raw, and primal. She was bringing life into this world… and I had the privilege to support that. There was nothing awkward or strange about this intimacy.
Rebeccah sat a few feet away in the room, patiently waiting. A mother of four and a former labor nurse herself, her patience with the process is won in great part from experience. Her knowledge comes not just from books but from living and knowing and loving. We could not have asked for a better person to be there to catch this sweet little one.
Rebeccah stepped out of the room for a few minutes. Our sweet mama was starting to hit the proverbial wall, telling her partner and I she couldn’t do this anymore. We both told her she could and that it wouldn’t be much longer. After all, she was almost 9 cm. Then she said to him, as they stood and swayed, doing the “labor dance”, “What do you think of me just getting an epidural? I don’t think I can do this.” I wanted to interject but held my tongue as I listened for his reply.
“I think we’re past that point. I know you can do this. You’re doing so well and you are so strong,” he told her. It was perfect and it seemed to be what she needed in that moment, because she didn’t ask about it again. She went into another contraction, her face and body transformed by the power of it. He seamlessly helped her through yet another one… and so it went.
She gave birth to her beautiful baby girl just as she had hoped. She was supported and loved throughout her labor. As I was getting ready to leave the hospital that night, she thanked me and said, “I would hug you but I’m gross, so here’s an air hug.” I told her I wasn’t worried about her being gross and we had a real hug.
It’s these moments, these hours, these powerful women, that make me do what I do. It’s all of this that I am so passionate about. And I will one day be a fantastic midwife because the intensity, the mess, the noises, the emotions, the primal energy of birth—they are all things I am both comfortable with and energized by. They make me feel alive… and the ability to empower these mamas is the best part of it all. 💓
(Stock photo found on pixabay)