Free to be Us
by Sandy Barlow
We made love early in the morning of the first day of September. Soon afterwards I discovered my mucus show. I was ecstatic. I was nearly a week overdue and had gone through many discouraging bouts of false labor. I had felt restless, uncomfortable and over-anxious for days. But now I felt a glowing surge of renewed energy and optimism.
Erratic contractions began later in the morning, and my husband Bart came home early from class. I spent the afternoon scrubbing the kitchen floor. (What else!)
The contractions continued all night. By 4:30 the next morning they had become regular. They were about ten minutes apart, and I could no longer sleep. I sat downstairs in the pre-dawn darkness, just resting and relishing quietly the revelation that the day had finally arrived.
Bart stayed home from school. About 7:30 he took Brad, our three year-old to a babysitter.
Bart studied all morning, while I busied myself with last-minute housework. Desiring gravity’s aid, I was resolved to stay on my feet as long as possible. Bart sat and read and waited, in a state of subdued, expectant excitement.
Soon, as each contraction began, I had to drop what I was doing and begin walking rapidly around the house until the contraction passed.
“Walk the baby down, walk the baby down,” I would chant to myself, an expression I remember reading somewhere.
I would walk from room to room, and each time I strolled past Bart we would laugh at my odd ambling.
The afternoon wore on, and the contractions became stronger. I needed to focus on them more and more. I played records and I’d stop walking and just sway to the music during the peak of each contraction. And I’d concentrate very hard on the feel of the baby’s head pressing against my widening cervix.
By 6:00 I could no longer continue my housework. I was still standing, but just leaning against the wall between contractions. During the contractions Bart held me close. We were still listening to the music, and we danced through several contractions.
By 7:00 contractions were two or three minutes apart and I finally sat down, leaning in a semi-squat against a bean-bag in our living room birthing area.
Contractions were becoming stronger and stronger. Bart massaged my thighs and I spoke continually during them, praying, chanting, or just vocalizing.
By 8:00 I was nearing transition. Contractions were very painful. I began to experiment with all the different positions I had read about. I knelt, I sat, I squatted, I stood, I went down on hands-and-knees, I rolled over on my side. Bart could hardly keep up. I would hug him tightly during contractions, pulling up his t-shirt so I could rub his back and sides.
By half-past eight the contractions were powerful and continuous. They came like waves, incredibly strong, then subsiding just a bit, only to redouble in intensity.
I needed unbroken eye contact with Bart. Our faces were inches apart, my eyes deep into his.
I did not want to fight the forceful energy of the contractions. Their voltage was overwhelming. I let the current flood over me and let my body respond to it in any manner. I acted out this energy very dramatically, both vocally and physically. Inwardly I was very grateful for the freedom to be able to do so.
All my inhibitions had been set aside. My consciousness consisted only of the interplay between my body and Bart’s and the thunderous birth forces. Together we plunged into the powerful sea of birth-energy and we emerged totally revealed to one another.
Then the overwhelming transition contractions rolled us right into second stage. There was no let-up in the momentum. Only now the forces within me demanded that I push.
My body could barely contain the energy. Contractions roared through me. I was squatting, then standing, and grunting and panting, never holding still long enough for the olive oil.
And then, riding on the crest of a tidal wave, our second son was swept ashore, into the hands of his father. He was purple and glistening, sputtering and crying and squirming, with long swirling lengths of cord wrapped around his neck, shoulders, and belly. (It was 9:14. Second stage had lasted about ten minutes!)
My entire body was still shaking from the high-voltage current that had filled it. Bart, too, was trembling with excitement. Little Jonathan cried softly in our arms. We had been passengers together on God’s most powerful journey, and were filled with awe. We still are.