The Birth of Oliver Gael
by Nicole Murray
After my daughter’s hospital birth, I knew that I wanted something different for my second child. Something that felt real. Something that I could hold with me for the rest of my life. To always be able to look back and say, “I did that,” and be proud. My path towards an unassisted pregnancy and birth felt natural and fluid. I felt a strong desire to have complete control, since I had given all my power away with Ciara’s birth. I desperately wanted and needed it back.
I do not think I have ever prepared myself more for anything in my life than I did for this birth. I wanted to know everything. I completely sunk into birth, and thought for nine months about what I wanted. I read for hours upon hours, and wrote my thoughts down, trying to reach a point where I felt completely ready.
Everyone asked me, “Oh, you must be totally done, right?” I would respond, “No, I’m not ready for this to be over. I want to enjoy these last days,” and that was the complete truth. This was my last pregnancy, last baby, last ever. The thought of it just ending so quickly really scared me.
Still, as I drove home from work in the very early hours of Tuesday, April 3, 2007, I felt a twinge in my back. And then another. A quiet excitement began to build inside of me. I knew this was the beginning.
I went home that night, and got ready for bed at about 2AM. Before I slipped into bed with my husband and daughter, I looked out the window. A full moon shone back at me. I opened the window and stood breathing in the night air with my eyes closed. It was crisp and quite cold, but exhilarating. I realized I was ready for whatever was happening. I left the curtains open for the moonlight to shine in, and I settled into a deep sleep.
I awoke in an uncomfortable state at 7AM. It took me a few moments to realize that my back was still throbbing. I tried to close my eyes to rest, but the bed quickly became unbearable. I made a trip to the restroom, and was met with bloody show and mucous. This is really it…
I walked about the house cleaning excitedly. I was not really sure what to do next. I knew I should go back to bed, but I wanted my husband to know, since he would be gone until about 5PM that day at work. I called his work so they could let him know what was going on, in case I needed to get in touch with him again if labor picked up faster than I expected. I then forced myself back to bed, to get all the sleep in I could.
My daughter awoke at ten, and was quick to wake me as well. We got in the shower, and I realized I had some errands to run. We got ourselves all ready, both of us in overalls. I put my hair in braided pigtails and was very pleased with myself.
“This is really happening!” I kept thinking. We both hopped in the car, and ran up to the library. I had so many books on hold and knew that I would not have another time to pick them up. I talked to a friend before we went inside, and she asked me how far apart my contractions were. I was not having any noticeable stop and start contractions. I just felt really achy, like I was about to start my period, I told her. Then, just as I said that, I felt my uterus tighten. “Wait, there’s one…”
We made our way inside, and Ciara ran around playing and coloring in the kid’s section. I settled into the rocking chair with a book I just checked out (A Midwife’s Story), and tried to read. I kept looking around at all the kids playing and the moms chasing after them and thinking, “They have no idea I’m in labor.” It was my fun little secret. I smiled and read a few chapters from my book.
After a quick grocery store trip, where I bought myself tons of yummy food like cakes and soup, we made it home. I made many bathroom visits once we got home, and was greeted by even more mucous and bloody show. I sat and wished my husband was home, so that I could focus a little more on what was going on inside me, instead of my daughter running around squealing and temper tantruming. She was really wild that day, maybe sensing something was going on. Surprisingly, my husband showed up two hours early, with even more cake (I love cake, and he knows it) and a movie. We ran about cleaning, and preparing. I had been putting off doing my belly cast and suddenly realized we needed to get it done or there would not be another chance!
I sat as still as I could, as my husband coated my torso in craft plaster. After almost an hour of not being able to move during contractions, I waddled my way in to get him off the phone and get the “damn cast off of me”. I was so incredibly uncomfortable, and once that thing was off, I jumped into the shower to get some relief. Contractions picked up more and were now about 4 minutes apart. I was not clock-watching in the slightest, just merely guesstimating the time in between them. I barely looked at the clock most of the day, actually. I wanted to focus entirely on what my body was telling me.
After my shower, I lay down again to rest and read. Seven o’ clock snuck up, and I awoke with stronger contractions. This was about the time that I began to have to really pause and concentrate on the contractions. I wandered out into the house in a bit of a haze. I felt electric and tingly, like I had too much caffeine.
I tested out my birthing ball; it was definitely more comfortable to sit on than anything else around. I bounced around on that for a few hours in between snacking and bathroom breaks. I had even more mucous and bloody show every time I went. I never actually lost a mucous ‘plug’, I just slimed all day long. I never thought I could create so much mucous. It was a bit uncomfortable and gross, really. But I made sure to report it laughingly to my husband each time I checked.
My sister arrived around 8PM, as she was there to watch over my daughter whenever labor got too intense. I was then able to make some much needed phone calls. I called my parents to let them know the baby would be coming soon. They frantically said they would be coming over soon. “No! No, that’s okay! We’re all going to bed soon. You don’t want to come over now!” They had wanted to be here during the birth, but all I wanted was a private birth with just my husband and myself. They were appeased when I agreed to call them thirty minutes before I thought the baby would be born. I had no intentions to, and knew they would be too happy to be upset when I called them when it was all done.
I made another phone call to my friend, Veronica, and we chatted for an hour. It was getting late, nearing eleven. She commented about how calm I was acting over the phone, and said it would probably be later the next day. Contractions were about 3 minutes apart now, and I was still feeling good. I got up and made my sister and husband dinner, and bounced around on my ball for a bit longer. I was noticing that I was having a harder time handling contractions about then. Once one would come on, I would kick my legs around, walk about quickly, and flail my arms. Generally, just toss myself about looking silly.
My sister thought that was pretty amusing, and she chatted with me in the kitchen as I did this birth “dance”. I thought how so many women seem calm and natural in labor, reverting to a primal state and knowing what to do. I had thought that I would instinctively know how to handle these in my own way, and I guess I did. I just thought it might be a bit more graceful and little less ridiculous. Still, my jumping about helped. I ate dinner and decided I wanted a change of pace. Maybe a warm bath would bring about this birth goddess?
I ran my bath with some lavender oil, lit some candles, turned the lights out and got in. As my body entered the bath, the water rose almost to the brim. I lay down on my side, with half of my body under the water, and listened to the water drain out slowly. I spent a good hour or more, laying on one side, then the other, and listening to the water flow out. When it cooled, I would turn the tap with my foot, filling it up to the top again. My mind was filled with the sound of the water draining, and I imagined it to be a river.
Brian peeped in every so often, asking if I needed anything. I wanted my birth CD my friend Trish made, but he could not find his CD player. He ran about trying to set up this larger stereo in the bathroom. In between his frantic footsteps, my contractions took a turn. I felt the baby move down, into my pelvis. I felt a widening. A sharpness. Again and again. Once Brian had set the stereo completely up, I asked him to get me out – now.
The contractions were quickening and I could not get out on my own anymore. Getting me out of the tub was an event, as we had to time them in between contractions, and I was so big, and the tub so, so small. When I finally made it out, the water dipped to just a few inches high. “Geez, I must be huge,” I thought.
The bathroom was moist and dark. I stood there, not knowing what to do next. I did not want to leave the warmth, but the room felt too hard to labor in. I stood still, as the contractions rolled in and out. My husband just stood beside me in the dark, unsure of what I wanted. “I don’t know what to do, Brian.” I spoke to him in between the ever-intensifying pains, hanging onto the towel rack.
I thought I would know what to do. Where was this primal birth power that I was supposed to be reverting to? I felt confused, and my mind blanked between each contraction. I only had time to recover before another would come. I kept waiting for some strong sense to come to me, some voice to tell me where to go to have my baby. I listened quietly and heard nothing. Another contraction. Then another. I gripped Brian, naked and dripping wet.
He led me to the bedroom. I stood for a while, just trying to handle the contractions as they came faster and faster. I held onto him so tightly, and he to me. I began to weep quietly, though without tears, during each contraction. They were so incredibly intense, the power of it all just made me weak. All I could think of was how I wanted to lay down and sleep. But then I would remind myself that it would soon be over. That I was strong, and could make it. I just needed to hang on. It would not be much longer, I knew.
I never checked my dilation, as I wanted to fully listen to my body and not become dismayed if labor progressed different from what I expected. I felt wetness dripping down my legs. I took a towel, and wiped. Blood showed bright red. I knew I could not labor much longer on my feet, so I had Brian get me some pillows and I got on my hands and knees, with the pillows under my chest.
Contractions came faster and faster. I felt every inch of the pain, down into my legs, up my back, into my bones. I thought, “Where is this natural pain relief everyone speaks of? Why am I not in a daze?!” I hugged the pillows beneath me and Brian rubbed my back calmly. I cried out from the pain, wishing for it to be over soon.
Suddenly, waves of nausea swept over me. “Good! Transition. It’s almost over!” I thought. Brian got me a bowl, but I never threw up. I was overwhelmed with the contractions, when suddenly I felt pushy. I tried to hold it back, but my body forced me to bear down. I did what I was being led to do, and suddenly my water burst all over the bed. I felt pressure and pain moving farther down. So much pain.
My body was forcing me to push more now, but I was not ready. I tried to hold myself back. I had thought when women spoke of their body pushing on its own, that it was from the inside. Instead, I was actively pushing, bearing down, as my mind screamed, “Stop it! Not so fast! Let it just happen!” It was as if my mind was completely cut off from my body. My thoughts ran quickly, as I attempted to deal with this new issue. I repeated aloud, “Calmdowncalmdowncalmdown…” Over and over.
I was slowly able to regain control a few times. I breathed in and out loudly, holding my body back, and suddenly I would be pushing and pushing and pushing! I could barely breathe between the extreme bearing down I was doing. I felt the baby move farther and farther down. The pressure became so intense. I have no idea where Brian was at this point. I could only attempt to hold myself back. Such an inner battle I have never experienced! Body versus mind.
I was now lying on my stomach, somehow. I had lost the strength to retain the hands and knees position. I was sweaty. Soaking wet, actually. I could barely lift myself. Brian said to me, “I can see something. I don’t know what it is, but it looks good!” At that point, I just relinquished all my power to my body, and was swept away in the pushing. There was burning. Oh, the burning! Brian oiled me up, but I honestly could not feel anything besides the intensity of the baby pushing through. Wider and wider, until I thought I would break open.
“There’s the head! Hold on…” Brian said as he unwrapped the cord. “There you go…”
A beautiful wetness fell from me.
Silence for a moment.
“Come on, baby!”
Gurgles, splutters and cries erupted. Our baby cried out for the first time. I felt such an intense relief, more than anything I imagine relief could feel like. It was done. I had done it. The baby was here!
I turned around and caught my first glimpse.
He was here.
“You have a son!” Brian exclaimed.
I turned myself, maneuvered the cord and then he was in my arms. So fresh, new. I smelled him, and took him in deeply. This was the reality I had been seeking for so long. This is what I gave up when I had my daughter. Life erupting in front of me.
Ciara cried out from the other end of the house. She had been asleep, but the cries awoke her. She came in, looking sleepy-eyed, but soon jumped up and down, squealing, “Baby! What’s that baby?!” My sister, Sara, called out that he was born at 3:23AM. She had woken up the last few minutes of labor and listened from the living room.
We all sat together on the bed as a family, admiring him, and talking excitedly. I sat up and passed the placenta after about thirty minutes. Ciara screamed out, “What is THAT?! I’m going to see Sara!” She came back in and repeated over and over, “I don’t like that. That’s gross. Blah!” Brian and I laughed at her disapproval of the placenta. I examined it, looking it over closely. It was warm, bloody, and heavy. My hands were coated in blood. In fact, I was covered all over. I left to take a quick shower, and once back, we decided on his first name. A name had not been chosen, since we both wanted to wait and see how we felt after the baby was born. Oliver was the first name that came to both of us.
And so ends this part of my life. It came and went so fast, I barely had time to register what had happened. I could not have asked for a better, more perfect birth. It was exactly as I had envisioned, the day and the night. The darkness. Just Brian and me, and our baby coming so quickly in the night.
I will now be able to take those moments with me for the rest of my life, and now I can say that I did that. I took full responsibility for my body and baby. I listened to what my body was naturally meant to do, and trusted in it. I gave myself up to the strength that was inside of me. Such an experience should never be withheld from any woman. This is what life is. There’s nothing else that compares.