It’s been two months since my sweet son Tanner came into the world, and I am finally finding time to sit and write his birth story. I hope it will encourage and empower women who are expecting a baby. I feel like there is a lot of fear mongering in our society around birth, and it shouldn’t be that way. Our adventure happened without any drugs or medical intervention, and it was an incredible experience which radically transformed the way I view myself, and the knowledge I have of my own strength and power. As women, we are built for this experience, built to ride the waves of power which bring souls earthside. So without further ado…
Tanner Travis Birth Story
Thirty six hours of early labor began on Thursday, October 6 around 4 in the afternoon. What I had read was correct, and the contractions felt like strong period cramps lasting anywhere from thirty to forty seconds. When they began, they were intermittent, anywhere from fifteen to forty minutes apart. I knew that it could be a long journey, and kept the sensations to myself as I continued about my normal business.
I slept Thursday night without much trouble, only waking once or twice to a stronger wave of sensation as it wrapped around from back to belly, letting me know that my baby boy was moving closer to this world.
Friday, dawn broke and my contractions were regular and steady, about every ten to fifteen minutes, and lasting about thirty to forty seconds. Brent and I decided to go for a walk to see if we could get things moving a little faster. As we strolled along the strand towards the Oceanside pier, they did indeed speed up, moving to about every eight minutes, and I got excited to think that Tanner might arrive this very day!
When we got home, however, my excitement abated as the surges (contractions) slowed down… a lot. And then stopped completely. From noon to about three PM nothing happened, and I wondered whether I had been overeager. It was his due date, October 7, but that didn’t mean he was coming. Frustrated and tired from my own expectancy, I retreated to the bedroom for a nap, and slept the sleep of the dead for about two hours.
I woke to strong sensations moving through my body – the contractions were back! In force! I started timing them and realized we’d moved to about forty seconds long and seven to eight minutes apart. Excited, I told Brent to not make any plans because I thought baby would be coming that night for sure.
Our birthing classes, midwives, and all the books I’d read advised acting as normal as possible until strong steady contractions came every five minutes, or until my water broke. So, in efforts to remain “normal,” we did what we would normally do on a Friday night, and we went out for mexican food – a bold move for a woman in early labor, yes. As we sat down to dinner, I invited Brent to play a game with me where we tried to act as normal as possible when the surges came. A particularly strong one hit me as we waited for our entrees, and Brent laughed when I asked afterwards if my face looked normal. Apparently, it didn’t.
After enjoying my enchiladas and knowing it might be my last meal before baby, we made our way home and spent the evening watching Bill Maher and bouncing on my birth ball. By ten PM, the contractions were still 45-60 seconds long and about 7 minutes apart. I called my doula, Leah, and the midwives at Tree of Life to let them know that I was definitely in labor, though not ready to come in yet.
They advised us to be ready, have bags packed in the car, and try to sleep. I didn’t think I would be able to sleep in the seven minutes between contractions, but I surprised myself by dozing until about one in the morning.
As I lay fitfully snoozing, I was jolted awake by a wave of sensation so strong that I immediately flipped over onto all fours and rocked my hips in an attempt to neutralize the pain. Feeling the urge to stand, I clambered out of bed and immediately felt water pouring down my legs, warm and oddly reminiscent of pee, but not pee.
I started crying and called out to Brent. It was the first time I’d felt something like fear instead of excitement, and I wasn’t sure what to do.
“It’s getting close now,” I told him “and you need to be ready. You’re in charge now – you need to time my contractions, and when they are one minute long and five minutes apart, we go to the birth center. I may not be able to speak anymore, and I may seem to retreat inward. I might be short with you. I love you. I’m a little scared.”
He reassured me with words of praise over my strength and grace, and sent me into the bathroom to have a hot shower. I sat in the shower on my little stool, with the warm water washing over me, and started to lose myself to the sensations gripping my body.
How to describe contractions? There is a point in labor when the animal within takes over, and for me it was around this time in the shower. The sensation would start, somewhere in my low back, and slowly wrap around my body, squeezing and twisting my insides, making my belly firm up and causing me to moan out loud to move through the pain. Yes, I said pain. Some people like to preach that natural labor doesn’t hurt. I am not one of those people. My contractions were most definitely painful, the most painful thing I’ve experienced, but a different kind of pain than I’ve ever known. I like to think of it as “pain with a purpose,” and mindfully focused on how each painful surge was bringing Tanner closer to me.
I kept the moans low in tone and they transformed into beautiful, powerful OMs as I labored for about an hour in the shower. As water and fluids flowed from my body and merged with the shower, I couldn’t help but feel that I was transmuting into this aqueous element, that I was merging with the receptive, yielding, female Yin principle and becoming nothing but water myself.
This is when time lost all meaning. After the shower, I labored for some time sitting on the toilet, facing backwards, holding a pillow over the top of the toilet and just letting everything open. Surrendering to the process, I felt the animal within me emerge – feeling more like a mama bear than a human, noting my conscious brain separate from the primal, intuitive, animal self… and that wild creature took over my labor.
After an undetermined amount of time, Brent told me it was time to go, that my moans were coming every five minutes, and lasting about a minute each time. I managed to pull on some ratty pajamas before collapsing on all fours in the living room, frantically rocking my hips to assuage the STRONG sensations now washing over me.
Around 3:45am, we somehow made it into the car. Let me tell you, car ride + active labor = No bueno. I positioned myself polar bear style in the passenger seat, holding onto the headrest, rocking and rolling through pelvic circles as Brent drove carefully, methodically, and urgently to the birth center.
We arrived around 4:15 and checked in; I was invited to lie on a table to have my cervix checked. With no modesty anymore, I quickly disrobed, no nonsense. My sweet midwife checked my lady parts and asked if I want to know numbers. My reply: “Am I in labor?” Her answer: “yes. Me: “then no.”
I didn’t want to know how dilated I was, because the number might discourage me if it were not high enough. I knew from that deep inner knowledge that it wouldn’t be long now. I would later find out that I’d only been 3cm dilated – yet it only took me 3.5 hours from that point to deliver Tanner.
Sometime while we were checking in, my doula Leah arrived and I let her and Brent become the humans, so I could become the bear, the water, the mother.
4:20am: Everything is one word answers now, going into labor land. We entered the moon room and I made haste to the attached bathroom to resume my toilet sitting with pillow. Each wave is stronger than the last, and I am moaning, keening, wondering if it will ever end, yet surrendered to the fact that it may never end. From within I am noticing the two minds – the animal and the human consciousness. I keep asking for the tub, they will only let me have the shower. It’s too small. I am so big. The ball is too small. The seat is better. I want more water, more heat, all around me, no break in the fluidness.
I go to stand up and immediately know I’m going to vomit. Leah brings me a garbage can, and I’m puking and shaking and some part of my brain (not the animal) tells me this is good, we are getting closer to transition. I am satisfied but also scared, because Transition is where everyone says shit gets real. Real hard, real intense, real overwhelming, real fast, real painful.
Leah and Brent help me get in the shower. Water is pouring over me and it is so hot, which I need, because I am so cold. I am shivering and shaking and nauseous and then another surge comes and this one is DIFFERENT. I hear my low OM turn into a deep growl, rising into a roar as I stand, brace myself on the shower support bars, and squat down. It is not a choice to push, it is just what the body does. We are moving into another stage.
I can’t bear the pushing surges standing or sitting, so we leave the shower and go to the bed. There is a pad laid down, like a puppy pad or the kind that covers hospital beds to prevent fluids from going everywhere. I am rocking on all fours, riding the intense waves as they come closer and closer now, every 2 minutes. It feels like there is no rest. It feels like I am consumed. The only way out is through. Mentally, I tell my son: “ok, dude, it’s time. Let’s do this. You and me. Let’s make it efficient. I trust you. We are ready for you.”
The waves rage on endlessly as I cry for the tub. Finally, it is ready and I clamber into the warm water with the gracefulness of a pregnant grizzly bear. Submerging myself in the water, I slip away again. I am cocooned in the warm liquid heat, and I am ready for the final showdown. I look fear in the eye and tell it “I am as strong as a bear.”
The waves slow down in the water, but they are as strong as ever. I am floating, feet braced on one end, hands gripping the handle bars, and every surge demands that I push. The force is bearing down now between my legs, something that feels far to big to come out. I don’t know how it will come out, but I know he will. I am praying and breathing and pushing and giving it everything I have. No, not everything yet. Almost. On the next surge, one of my midwives tells me they can see the head, and asks do I want to feel. I want to shout NO. In the videos I’ve seen, crowning looks like a soft boiled egg and it somehow totally freaks me out that a head can look that way. I think I say no, but she takes my hand and guides it to the entrance to my womb, and I feel him. My baby. He’s right there.
All of a sudden there is NO more time. When the next wave comes, I breathe down, bear down, and push with a strength that I never knew existed in me. I am roaring, pushing until I cease to exist and then I feel this great release as my son rockets from one watery world into another. He feels slippery, and squirmy, and they bring him to my chest, and then I am holding him – my first baby, my only child, my sweet son Tanner.
It is still dark, and I start to murmur to Tanner but something isn’t right. The cord is wrapped, I hear, from voices that are right next to me but seem far away. It’s wrapped twice, around his neck. I speak not to them, but to Tanner: “you’re okay, baby. Just hang on. We are going to unwrap you. You’re alright. I’ve got you. Mama is here-” and to God – “no. Not gonna happen. Fix it now.” Speaking not with frustration, or fear, but pure faith. This will not stand.
The placenta was lodged in me still and I felt the tugs and strains as they worked to remove the cord. Though dark, I could see that my son was blue. Still, I did not fear. What felt like forever (but was really only a minute) passed, and Tanner was being given oxygen. Still on my chest, I willed him to breathe. From my lips to Gods ears, and he sputtered and coughed. His eyes blinked open, and the tears rolled from mine.
“My son, my baby, I love you… I love you.” Kissing his wet little head, I gave silent thanks for every one of Gods miracles, and more thanks that this one was for us.
Then more things happened – I delivered the placenta, and with help made my way to the bed, and we were poked and prodded and weighed and measured and checked and loved and everything was okay because Tanner was here. More things happened, and none of them mattered because it was just the three of us now, and we were a family.
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