The week of her due date, Leo’s mama was showing no signs of giving birth anytime soon. Her cervix was completely closed and not effaced at all, and instead of dropping down into her pelvis, her baby seemed to be trying to wiggle his way back up, as if he could come out her esophagus. Her doctor scheduled an induction for the following Monday morning at 8 am. He also told her that her labor would be very long and painful, and she might want to consider just having a cesarean, since it would likely end up in the OR anyway. (!!!)
This mom had a history with anxiety, and had been feeling some stress and anger/resentment in the last couple weeks of her pregnancy (her in-laws were in town, she had to deal with construction issues for the house they were moving into, and her partner wasn’t able to be very present for her.)
What she really needed was a little time by herself to connect to her baby. She finally got some one night when her partner went out with his parents and she stayed home alone. She said she had a deep and profound conversation with her baby, and realized she wasn’t ready to stop being pregnant yet – partly because she had so looked forward to and enjoyed her pregnancy, but also because she wasn’t sure she was ready for the next phase of being a parent. She told me she grieved the end of her pregnancy a little, and told her son she was ready for him, and welcomed him.
The next morning she lost her mucous plug, and early labor started very shortly afterwards!! She had already scheduled a non-stress test to prepare for her induction so she headed into the hospital. Unfortunately, a condescending nurse there told her that she wasn’t in labor yet, and that all women think they can handle it at the beginning but they all end up screaming for drugs as soon as it gets real. This mama was pretty discouraged at that point, and I tried to explain that early labor – the part where the cervix dilates from 0-4 and can take days and sometimes weeks – is sometimes called “early labor” or “pre-labor,” but sometimes hospital staff will say it’s not real labor at all. What they call “real” labor is what I call “Active” labor – starting at 4 cm. A woman’s body is doing a TON of work to get to that point, and I believe in giving her credit for that hard labor!
Leo’s mama went home and coped with intermittent contractions on her own and with her husband for a night and a day, and I joined her late Saturday night. She was doing great! She told me when the contractions changed from “crampy” feelings to real contractions, she caught herself saying “ouch ouch ouch!” She changed her language to say “I’m ok, I’m ok , I’m ok” with every contraction, and eventually evolved that language even further to say “You’re OK Leo, you’re doing great in there little guy, you’re ok.” I was so impressed!
Contractions petered out in the morning,so we all agreed to get some sleep. Sunday afternoon, Leo’s mama was feeling discouraged and called her doctor. He told her “you probably aren’t dilated at all, but you are welcome to come in to be induced.” She was triumphant to discover she was 4cm when she arrived!
Leo’s parents labored alone at the hospital for a few hours. This was unusual for me – usually parents will spend the early part of labor alone and call me when they need me – often about the time “active” labor hits. However, this papa needed the time we spent together Saturday night to learn how to really support and be present for his wife’s labor. The time they spent alone together at the hospital was connected, peaceful and beautiful and contributed to the overall sense of birth empowerment felt by the mama.
I joined them in the early evening (with a sandwich for papa!) Mama decided to get the epidural a few hours later. She could feel herself crossing over that line from pain to suffering that I always talk about with my clients, and knew with absolute conviction that it was time for relief. She was offered pitocin about 15 minutes after the epidural was in place, but she declined. She said she thought about what Leo’s experience would be like with the stronger, longer and harder contractions and just couldn’t do it to him. Once again, I was impressed by how the partnership and connection between this mama and her son.
We labored through the rest of the night, sleeping and resting as much as possible (thank goodness for that epidural) and little Leo was born 7:50 am – 10 minutes before the induction appointment! HA!
When Leo was placed on his mama’s belly, his little arms and legs wrapped around his mama immediate snuggle mode. It was clear that he felt and appreciated his mama’s awareness and consideration of him. They continued to be patient with each other as they worked out the first latch, and the mama told me she feels like she intuitively knows how to give this little guy just what he needs – and if she doesn’t get it quite right , that he’ll be able to let her know.
This birth happened at a time when I was working through some fear clearing of my own, specifically regarding partnership. I was so moved and inspired by the way this mother and son listened to each other, held space for and protected each other, and the resulting compassion, love and trust that flows between them now. I have a lot to learn from that little baby.