How our Emotional Journey Manifests Physically in Labor
The Story of Birthing My Third Baby
My story begins in the early hours of Saturday, August 21, 2021.
I woke up to intense contractions concentrated in my lower abdomen. “Oh no”, I thought. “These feel different. Please stop, I am not ready for labor.” Internally, I spoke to my body and asked for labor to stop. I wanted a little more time to mentally prepare. I got up, used the restroom, and went back to bed. To my relief, the contractions subsided. My body knew I was not ready and gently quieted down.
I woke up and started sobbing. I felt the familiar shift inward that happens on the cusp of labor. My contractions hadn’t returned, but I knew labor was coming and I was still feeling unready for it. I woke my husband Matt and asked him to feed our two kiddos. I needed some space.
Overwhelmed with emotion, I sobbed and sobbed. I needed to verbally process what I was feeling, so I called my doula, Destiny.
I spilled my guts over a 90-minute phone call. Remembering the intensity of labor had me feeling scared. But more than that, I was afraid of surrendering my old self to cross the threshold into parenthood again. It’s a terrifying process to let a comfortable version of yourself go to make room for something new. Giving birth to a baby is a rebirth process for me as a person, every time.
Each of my children has given me a deep lesson about life through the process of carrying and birthing them. My firstborn taught me about trusting myself and my intuition. My second child opened up my vision and capacity to call on the angelic support that is consistently surrounding each of us.
And this third baby taught me all about honesty. His gift is the call to face my life with honesty, to release the subtle pattern of pretending and hiding, which ultimately sabotages my progress.
You know how being brutally honest can be terrifying? That’s the feeling I was overwhelmed by this Saturday morning. Facing labor felt daunting and overwhelming. I seriously contemplated telling Matt to check me in at the local hospital and order me an epidural. Gosh, those seem really nice. At this point, I was unsure if I could follow through with my unmedicated, out-of-hospital birth plan.
My doula, Destiny, was the perfect listener and support; having her in my corner gave me so much peace and comfort to enter labor. She was the person on my birth team who saw me and knew what this birth experience meant for me and my life. Invaluable.
At the end of our call, we both affirmed that my baby was coming soon, and likely today.
Matt graciously took the kids out for the day while I spent my time gathering courage and support. I slept, cleaned, finished painting the kids’ rooms, and soaked in the silence. The silence nourished me and allowed me the space to step into trust and willingness to enter labor.
I am willing to experience this labor. I am willing to trust.
I am willing to be honest.
This labor is smooth.
By the end of the day, I felt ready but felt no significant contractions. Matt kept checking in and I felt a little sheepish updating him with no labor progress, only a thank you for the time and space to prepare for this birth experience.
Sunday, August 22, 2021 (happy sixth anniversary to me and Matt!)
I had some contractions in the night that slowed when I rested. With no significant contraction pattern by morning, I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I guess we’ll go to church.” During our meetings, I was on edge feeling like I could go into labor any minute.
While I feel loved and supported by the people in our community, I didn’t want my water to break in front of them.
After church and afternoon naps, a storm hit. Our two toddlers had a joint meltdown, Matt was in the middle of fixing our kitchen sink disposal (which was not going well), and my contractions started coming, one after another.
“Here I go. I am willing to have this experience.”
I called downstairs, “Matt, will you make dinner? Maybe we could eat at 5 p.m. and get the kids down by 7 p.m.” All the while, secretly hoping labor would wait for my proposed timeline.
Matt called back from under the sink, “No one is making dinner down here!”
“Hmm. Okay,” I thought.
I started reading to the kids and peace settled into our home as the intense this-is-labor contractions began and reached consistent pacing of about eight minutes.
I fed the kids, Matt finished putting the kids to bed with me, and I found my ground breathing deeper into my belly with each wave.
I called Destiny to summon my birth team and prepare the birth center for my delivery.
“This is it and I feel ready,” flashed through my mind.
Doubts about my ability to move through my unmedicated plan still lingered; the doubts faded as I whole-heartedly affirmed, “Yes, I can do this!” with every exhale.
I focused on breathing right into the belly of the sensation in my lower abdomen. With a couple of breaths, the intensity would pass, and my confidence grew with each contraction.
I could energetically feel my support team gathering as I lay there, and I was highly attuned to the nuances of the hormonal symphony of signals happening in my body. I was more sensitive and lucid during this birth than my previous two. I could feel the adrenaline and oxytocin shift as my wise body moved through each step of labor.
We headed to the birthing center. I closed my eyes most of the drive, holding on to my affirmation with every exhale: “Yes, I can do this!” All the while hoping I was dilated at least above five centimeters.
We arrived at the birth center. I paused outside and listened to my team set up, the music, and the water filling the
tub. I paused to literally and energetically prepare to “step into my birth space.” I knew that if I stepped into that room, I would move through this experience and emerge transformed.
“Here I go. I am willing to have this experience.”
First, I labored leaning over a side table. I kicked off my flip-flops and felt Destiny’s light touch massage run up and down my back. Her gentleness made me cry as I melted into her loving support.
I asked for my first check. My midwife reported, “Well, you are eight centimeters, 100 percent effaced, station -1, and he is OP, so we just need to turn him. He’s also slightly asynclitic and not well engaged in the pelvis.”
“Eight centimeters?! I CAN do this!” I cheered in my mind.
The information about how my baby was engaged in the pelvis explained the start/stop labor pattern I experienced the day before. At that moment, I was hyper-aware of the connection between our emotional experiences and how they manifest physically. My baby had settled into a less than ideal position, which created a start/stop labor pattern. Energetically, my body signaled to my baby a feeling of uncertainty, which created his less than ideal position. This allowed time for me to ease into labor and gather the courage I needed to finish the delivery.
This is the power we have energetically to create our reality, for better or worse.
I asked my team what to do to turn this baby. They told me: stink bug position for two contractions, exaggerated SIMS position on the left side for two contractions, and finally, stand for two contractions.
Turning my baby felt easy. For the last few months, my focus was on creating space for this baby, physically, emotionally, and energetically. As a result, my body was primed and my baby responded beautifully to the encouraging movements.
As a birth doula, I have worked with clients whose bodies did not dilate in labor. Energetically, their cervix was telling the truth of the situation even though they verbally expressed something different. Childbirth can feel overwhelming and scary when the relationship with our body isn’t anchored in safety and trust. The fear can be all-consuming and when we experience that, our bodies respond by stopping the labor process because it doesn’t feel safe. Our nervous system and hormonal system are best buds that are constantly sending messages back and forth, to affirm danger or safety. We need safety hormones like oxytocin for labor to progress.
My baby was OA, engaged with a straight spine, and my cervix was dilated to nine centimeters.
My contractions remained 4-6 minutes apart through-out labor. I checked in with my uterus and affirmed, “I trust you.” She responded, “Yeah, just like you, I’m not going to work harder than is needed. I am going to do what I need to do.” And she did, no superfluous contractions.
Our bodies are wise.
I hopped in the tub expecting to push my baby out in 20 minutes max. Nothing. I felt no contractions and no urge to push.
“What happens next?” I asked.
Destiny said, “You hold a baby in your arms.”
The rest of my team affirmed this was probably the rest before the big push and to enjoy it.
My thought was, he might wait till tomorrow to be born.
After 45 minutes of standstill, my intuition told me to get out and check in with the situation. There is no reason I shouldn’t be holding my baby in my arms right now. Something was not progressing.
Our bodies respond to our emotions, whether we are conscious of them or not.
12:02 a.m., August 23, 2021
I asked my midwife to check my cervix again for any information.
“Oh,” she said. “You have a lip of cervix on the left side.” She was about to ask me about moving it out of the way, but it gently slipped past her fingers over my baby’s head. I rolled to one side and had two VERY intense contractions.
“Oh no,” I thought. “I am so scared of pushing. I’m not sure I can do it.”
Again, this was a physical manifestation of my emotional journey. The lip of my cervix was holding on, preventing the advancement into the next stage of labor which paralleled my fear of pushing. I engaged my pushing muscles to see if I could remember how to do it.
The shift into active pushing came after I surrendered to each wave. The expulsion reflex to get the baby out is much stronger than uterine contractions leading up to it, and requires a deep surrender to a primal instinct. This is the transformative moment of crossing the threshold into parenthood, the part of the process when our old self dies and our new self is born.
The death and rebirth cycle in living presence.
I hopped in the tub again to push my baby out. I paused, took a breath, and sat back.
“Ohhhhhhh, here it comes!” The urge, a half-hearted push, and I felt my bag of water pop and my baby’s head start to emerge. One big push through a solid ring of fire and his head smoothly glided out.
“That better be his whole head!” my mind yelled. It was.
My midwife said, “Now stand up.”
“I have a head hanging out of my vagina and you want me to do what?” I was incredulous. Her request felt absolutely impossible.
I screamed, “Get him out! Get him out!”
Immediately, Matt pulled me up by the arms, I pushed my pelvis up out of the water with the baby’s head. My midwife slid her arms under my pelvis to keep it elevated. I leaned back over the ledge of the tub and brought my right leg up, then my left. I was suspended in the air, parallel with the floor. I thought, “What is this? The birth Olympics?”
“Okay, push your baby out!” the midwife called.
I pushed again and felt his body emerge and the giant relief that immediately followed.
My baby was born. Why the Olympic trick? Why had my midwife asked me to stand up?
After my baby’s head came out, there was no restitution or turning of the head which allows the shoulders to come out, a sign of shoulder dystocia. I had felt the urge to push stop momentarily and I replied, “I can’t” when she asked for another push which signaled a “sticky shoulder.” My midwife asked me to stand up to change the shape of my pelvis to allow my baby to rotate and come out. My Olympic maneuver did the trick.
Our bodies are so wise and if we listen to them, they will guide us through the process of birth and of life.
Our bodies respond to our emotions, whether we are conscious of them or not. As we check in with our emotions and energy, we can find the answers we are looking for and continue progressing on our path forward.