I thought I’d post one of the first stories in the book. Actually, I’m planning on giving the book away as a PDF.
Yes, give it away! I know it sounds crazy but I’m out to get rid of the fear of birth.
Like Thunder Rumbling Through
by KELLY CAMDEN
Being pregnant brought me renewed vitality, but as every mother knows, there comes a time when you have had enough of being pregnant. Maybe it’s your body’s way of preparing for the separation that is about to occur. In addition to your own anticipation, there are the questions, the phone calls, and people dropping by with hopes of seeing you in labor. Your hormones are shifting and everyone wants to know, “HAVE YOU HAD THE BABY YET?” Maybe these social annoyances are nature’s way of conditioning us for the patience we will need as parents.
It was August and hot, of course. I was pitting the forty pounds of cherries that I had picked from my favorite orchard. I needed a project to pass the time, because I was nine-and-a-half months pregnant. As I finished laying the fruit in the dryers, I began early labor. I had the typical stream of emotions. Mostly I felt excitement: it’s finally happening! I had prepared our living room for the birth a month before with a birth kit, birth stool, and a variety of other things we would need.
Home birth is a common occurrence in rural areas of Colorado and many women hire a licensed midwife. My midwives, Suzanne and Jeanette, gave me such special care and attention throughout my pregnancy; I knew I could rely on them during my birth. In the last weeks, we had been in contact every day, either by phone or by home visits. When I called to tell them the good news, they assured me that they were prepared to come at any time.
Since everything was ready for the birth, I decided to go out to dinner. I was hungry and I figured this was my last chance to just sit and eat. Besides, my baby’s grandparents had just pulled into town and I wanted to visit with them. It was sort of nice, but my meal and conversation were continuously interrupted. I would be in the middle of a sentence and suddenly trail off… losing my train of thought; another contraction. I was surprised that they kept coming so regularly. The grandparents, seasoned in childbirth, understood my incoherence, but I felt awkward when I couldn’t carry on a conversation.
After dinner I walked home, and put everything and everyone else aside. I labored through the night, sweating, moaning and even vomiting at times. During my pregnancy I had read every book on childbirth that I could find, watched lots of videos and talked with nearly every mother in town. I understood the physiology of childbirth, and part of my coping mechanism was to rationalize each sensation I felt. When there was immense pressure in my lower back, I told myself, “OK, the baby is against my back and I can counteract this pressure.” Luckily, the baby shifted positions after a few contractions, so that feeling didn’t last long.
My midwife came over and spent the night with us. Although her presence was comforting, I knew that I was the only person who could give birth. I retreated to the deepest parts of my mind, reviewing scenes from my childhood like an old film. Every spoken word, whether or not it was directed to me, became a distraction. I wanted silence. I just sat there, letting my body do its work. I didn’t want to move or be touched, just to be still. Contractions came and went, and in between I would drift off, resting without sleeping.
Unlike the hospital setting, where a classroom-sized clock is staring at you from across the bed, I had a tiny clock placed strategically behind me. But in the childbirth time warp, the hours, minutes and seconds didn’t hold any meaning. Soon the sunlight was shining softly into the room. My labor was changing. I felt the baby moving, like thunder rumbling through me, and I had to surrender. I pulled together every bit of strength I had left. Suddenly I was re-energized, as if I had slept through the night. For every bit of pushing, I had to do just as much letting go. I could not hold on to the fact that I was totally naked in front of a room full of people, or consider the sounds I would hear coming from my mouth. I understood why they call it the “urge to push”—I remember asking Suzanne, “Do I have to wait for another contraction?”
Finally, at 9:03 on a Monday morning, my son was born. The midwife immediately put him in my arms. I was stunned—the sight and sensation of holding your own child for the first time is not truly conceivable before it happens. He did not cry or breathe right away, and it seemed everything was in slow motion. I was speechless and holding my own breath. My midwife said, “Talk to your baby!” as she suctioned his airways and he began to breathe.
I felt as if we were calling his soul into his body. My words were probably a jumble, but in my heart I said, “I’m so glad that you’re here!” I watched him fill with oxygen and a rosy color spread through him. He was aware, but silent, and we watched each other closely. I felt that I was looking at a stranger, and gazing into the eyes of an old friend. Maybe, as he gazed back with a slightly wrinkled brow, he felt the same way. I barely noticed when our physical tie, a purple and shockingly rope-like cord, was severed. We had completed the journey and evolved into two individuals. With some practice I was able to nurse him, and we reconnected. Afterwards I began to cry. I was sobbing, not only tears of joy, but also relief and gratefulness. I realized the fullness of my being. Every muscle, every hormone and every action of my body was nature. I had experienced the completion of one cycle, and the beginning of another.
A Mother’s Guidance: I did not take any birth classes. Instead, I read midwifery books and spoke with women who had faith in the birth process. Some of the books that I read were Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin, Heart & Hands: A Midwife’s Guide to Pregnancy & Birth by Elizabeth Davis, Birth without Violence by Fredrick Leboyer, and Immaculate Deception and Seasons of Change, both by Suzanne Arms. I read everything that my midwife had in her office, and anything in the library that supported normal birth.
The secret to having a great birth is… hire a midwife! Finding a midwife for your hospital or home birth is the best thing that you can do for yourself and your baby! The midwifery model of care encourages freedom of movement, use of water during labor, and no separation of mother and baby. Midwifery care is very respectful of the process that mother and baby are experiencing.
Additional Thoughts: Kelly mentions that she strategically placed her clock behind her. You will find that it is much easier to labor if you are not concentrating on how long it’s taking. If you are giving birth at a hospital, drape a towel over the clock or take it off the wall.
Kelly Camden is the mother of two boys, both born at home. She has worked with families as a labor support and postpartum doula since 1999. Kelly facilitated the creation of the Albuquerque Birth Network (www.abqbirthnet.org), an organization that educates the community about options for healthy pregnancy and birth, and advocates for evidence-based care.