Amileah (Millie) is my second baby, and just a few days ago we celebrated her third birthday. I never understood my parents when they said, "how time flies" until I had my own precious girls. Now I can say with full knowledge: how time flies!
My first daughter was born in a hospital via augmentation with Pitocin and a "small" episiotomy. This second time I was planning a different adventure: I was going to give birth at a local birth center. The center's "homey" and down-to-earth atmosphere appealed to me, and I liked that it didn't have the hospital smell of waxed floors and bleached beds. I loved that I did not have to be tied down with an IV, and I could walk around all I wanted without tripping over plugs and hearing the constant beeping noise. (Can you tell I am a bit biased?)
Amileah (Millie) was born twelve days "early", on a hot day late in August. After dreaming that I was in labor, I woke up around 8 a.m., in labor. It hurt pretty bad right away; I could not get out of bed to get Abie out of her crib. We decided to go in to the maternity center, thinking this was just really bad false labor. The drive was an hour long, and upon arrival at 10:30, the midwife said I was 3 cm and my bag of water was "bulging".
"So I won't hold out three more days until my mom comes?" I asked. My mother was due to arrive from Minnesota three days hence.
"No, I am afraid not," the midwife laughed.
Adam and I had Abie with us, and we decided to go outside for a walk up a nearby hilly area. (This Tennessee, and full of hilly areas!) This is often a helpful way to get a baby out, and it sure worked well with us! I had to stop and concentrate every time I had a contraction (which was often), and I had to lean on Adam or have him press on my lower back. We got back to the center around 12 noon, and the midwife said I was dilated to 5 cm. I needed some relief, so I got into a tub filled with warm water.
Here came a turning point for me: I had previously denied the use of a free doula that the center had offered, and now I greatly regretted my decision. My cousin and friend were on their way to take pictures and see the birth, and Adam was a wonderful support, but he was also occupied with Abie, and I needed someone else to help him and help me. I asked the midwife if there was a doula available last minute. She made some calls and found that there was one lady who was happy to come, and she was on her way. I can do this, I think I can do this, I can maybe do this, I don't think I can do this...my thoughts were beginning to turn to doubts.
I got in the tub about 12:30 and had some strong, unrelenting pain. While in the middle of a seemingly impossible contraction, I suddenly I felt a pair of gentle hands on my shoulders. This was another turning point: I immediately released my tension, and realized I was not all alone. I realized I was not suffering, but rather coping and working with what my body was naturally doing! I could do this! I was going to make it! The simple, gentle touch of another person made such a difference! I looked up, and saw my beloved husband standing over me.
Suddenly, the intensity was to the point where I felt I couldn't sit still, yet I couldn't move, and I felt I had to poo, but I didn't want to embarrass myself, and then another strong contraction, and I thought, "Screw it! I am about to explode, and if that means sh*tting in public, so be it!" I pushed, and I felt a burst as my water broke. The midwife immediately started to drain the tub (for some reason they did not do water births at this center), and she came to help me out when I pushed again and she noticed my baby's head coming out!
I saw Millie's head pop out under the water, and I reached down to grab her, and the rest of her came out into my arms, cord around her neck, water still draining from the tub. She was born at 12:57 p.m., less than 3 hours after we arrived. She weighed 5 lbs., 8oz. I had gone from 5 cm, to delivered in 57 incredible minutes!
I was helped out of the bath, delivered the placenta on floor beside the tub (poor floor mat had seen its last days), and helped into the bed in the next room.
Then my doula arrived. She was probably the softest woman I have ever met; full of lovely and comforting words for me and my new baby, and her earrings dangled back and forth as she nodded her head. No matter how much I want to, I am afraid that I will never be quite as gentle and reassuring as she was.
With Abie's birth I learned the power of information and choice. With Millie's birth I learned the power for additional helping hands. My experience with Millie has stuck in my head and my heart (like most women's birth experiences), but the small turning points have been clinging to my soul. They come alive again every time I am by a woman's side during her birth. Just a gentle hand to let her know she is not alone, and comforting words for her to hear.
I do not love doulas because I am a doula. I love doulas because I am a mom.