This past Sunday (Aug 7) I took part in what has to be the one of the most amazing moments of my life, and it totally changed the friendship that I have with one of my BFFs.
My friend’s husband is overseas for the time being and as a result wouldn’t be able to be here for the birth of their third child. Earlier this Spring, my friend called me and asked me if I would consider being her birth partner for this child’s birth. I didn’t have to think twice, of course I would! She and I have been friends since 2007, I met her at a La Leche League meeting right after I moved here to St. Louis. The Bear was almost 4 months old and she was expecting their first child that month. She helped our family find our Parish and she and I really hit it off right off the bat. Through the years, our friendship has been through highs and lows, through births, through moves and changes, but our friendship has only changed for the better.
Early Sunday morning (around 230a) she called me and told me that she was going to have the baby today. I dressed, grabbed some stuff and drove to her house. Her doula and I arrived at the same time and we helped her labor at home until 530a. We arrived at the hospital around 6a and this is where things got a little fun. (Just a little aside, the staff working in ERs really need to cut back on the caffeine! My friend’s water hadn’t broken yet, but she was having intense contractions… to the point where she had to stop walking and concentrate on the contraction. Labor was not imminent in the fact that the baby wasn’t going to fall out of her right then and there, but the staff added a little unneeded stress to the situation by basically chiding us for not getting to the hospital “sooner.” Anyway.) We get to Labor and Delivery and get my friend set up on a birthing ball. Now, she and I have the same OB/GYN, a fantastic man who is a great husband and a father of 7, but he was on-call at another hospital until 7a. If you have given birth, you know how particular one can be about “your” OB delivering the child. So, my friend labored and worked through her contractions all the while praying for Dr. G to get there.
My friend had made it clear to me and her doula and in her birth plan that she wanted to have a non-medicated birth, and that she would ask for pain meds when she wanted them. But here’s the funny thing about birth, if you are going natural, the moment you think you really want those meds means that you are probably closer to time to push than you think. So, she was checked and sure enough, she was 8cm and 80% effaced. After another 20 minutes of work, she asked for an epidural again and the orders were put through… at least they tried to put them through. The hospital had just switched over to electronic filing and there was a little issue getting the meds ordered. By the time the order had come through, her water had been broken (the sac was bulging, bulging but wouldn’t rupture) and she was feeling the urge to push.
She pushed through a couple contractions while on the ball and then decided to move to the bed. During the next contraction, the doula and I checked and sure enough… we saw hair! The doula pressed the call light for the nursing staff (another aside and a reason why I LOVE this particular hospital… if you are having a non-medicated birth, the nurses really do not come in much. They will come in to check fetal heart rates every so often but other than that, they are pretty hands off. I just wish they had birthing tubs) and Dr. G and the nurses came in. My friend pushed another 6 times or so and my godson, Cazimir Kolbe, was born! (For those trying to keep track, from the time we arrived at the hospital to when he was born was 2 hours.)
The Post-Birth-Happy-High set in pretty quickly for my friend (another upshot to the non-medicated birth is that the after birth endorphins aren’t blocked by pain meds) and she was so amazed at her body that she not only had a son but that she birthed her son without the aid of an epidural or pitocin! She couldn’t believe how great she felt and how “fast” it worked. I know that feeling because I felt that same way after birthing The Dragonfly. It seems as soon as they place that baby on your chest, you completely forget about the previous time that you are working and exhausted and that you thought you couldn’t do it anymore.
For me, the experience really enforced, in my mind, how childbirth should be. Childbirth is an event that can unite a couple, but even more so, it is an event that unites women across time. My friend is not kidding when she says that our friendship has changed because we have been to the edge and back together. I looked into her eyes and I saw the moment when she had to let everything go and trust her body and trust her support team to walk with her to the end.
And it was amazing.