This time around, I spent a lot of my pregnancy reading stories about other women’s birthing experiences. It was very informative! I learnt about birthing practices that I wasn’t comfortable with as a Christian but even from these practices, I gleaned something. At the core of what I learnt before my third birthing experience was that when we let go and allow the experience to happen, rather than trying to control every aspect of the narrative, things go a whole lot more smoothly.
It was Friday evening when the contractions started. I managed to get some sleep but by morning, I was still having some contractions. My very conscientious hubby, Archie, insisted we initiate the birth plan…so we called the midwives and briefed them, and asked his aunt and uncle to come pick up the kids and take them to church. By 10am the children were gone and the midwives had arrived, but my contractions had also slowed down quite a bit. Hubby and I took a walk, ate some food, and enjoyed the quietness of our home. We sent the midwives away in the early afternoon as my contractions had pretty much stalled.
Around 4pm, I had this urgent need to have my two children home. Aunty and Uncle were willing to keep them overnight for us, but I just wanted my babies home with me. By the time we put them to bed around 6pm, my contractions started up again. But here were our kind Aunty and Uncle making conversation as I breathed through contractions. I remember Uncle telling me, “It’s ok for you to scream if it hurts, you know. That reminds me of one time when…[start some birthing story I wouldn’t have minded hearing any other time, but not now]…” Eventually, they left with assurances that we could call them to watch the kids anytime if labor progressed.
Once they left, I grabbed my phone with my selected birthing playlist and headed out to the backyard to pace back and forth. It was such a glorious experience. It was a warm and breezy August evening, the kids were safely tucked away, hubby left me to myself, and I just had a praise session with Jesus as the contractions rolled in. I began to explore each contraction as it came. They were all different. Some I felt deep in my core, some felt more like the baby was moving positions…they grew more frequent and more intense and more interesting. I swayed back and forth to the music, lifted my hands in worship, and felt overwhelmingly grateful to the God who had permitted me to be part of this miraculous process.
About an hour and a half later, my feet grew weary and I had to head into the house. I sat on the birthing ball as Archie lit the candles in our room. The sun was beginning to set. Archie and I had spent quite a bit of time talking about what the ideal birthing scenario would be. He had been absent from my second birth because he was afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, but I really wanted him to be there with me, as my support. So now, he rubbed my lower back in between contractions. Still with my headphones in listening to my playlist, I was so calm during contractions that Archie asked me a couple of times, “Did that contraction even hurt?”
Sometime after 10pm, Archie asked if I wanted to call the midwives back, to which I cannot recall what I responded. All I remember thinking is, “I don’t care what you do, just don’t interrupt me.” The midwives had told him that when I get to that place during labor where I turn into myself, he should know to call them because the baby will be there soon. He must have heeded their instructions because within an hour, the midwives were back and setting up their equipment. They were very quiet and just left me to myself so I was just vaguely aware of their presence.
Then one midwife asked me if I wanted to use the bathroom since I’d been drinking water. It would be easier for me to deliver if my bladder wasn’t full. Her logic made sense to me, but I didn’t want to go and sit on the toilet because I just knew that the baby would start to come out if I did…and something inside of me wasn’t ready for that.
You see for the birth of our first, my Mom had stayed with us for 3months to help out. And for the birth of our second, my eldest sister had stayed with us for 6months to help out. But this time, after multiple visa denials, we had no-one coming to help out. My mind was focused on the fears of what would happen once the baby was born. Would we manage with a newborn and 2 toddlers? And what would we do when it was time for me to return to work after my 3months off? What if Archie was working by then…what would we do about childcare? There were so many questions yet unanswered that were plaguing my mind. I’d worked through a lot of fears and questions in preparation for the birth, but these ones about the future remained.
Reluctantly, I went to relieve myself and as soon as I was done peeing, I felt the baby descend. “He’s coming out!” I yelled. To which the midwife responded, “Get off the toilet!” Archie rushed to help me off the toilet and I made it a couple of steps, just barely out of the bathroom, and plopped down in the space between the bathroom and the closet. “Do you want to go to your room?” asked the midwife. There was no way I was moving from that spot. So, in that narrow space, the midwives set up to receive the baby.
Archie had wanted to catch the baby so he was behind me with one of the midwives, while the other midwife knelt in front of me reassuringly, as I breathed through the intensity on all fours. The midwife smiled and reassured me that I could push anytime I was ready. And all I could do was shake my head, “no.” I was not ready. I was not ready to allow what was best for me and baby to transpire. I was not ready to transition our family into a new phase of life. I was just not ready because I felt unprepared…I had no concrete plan.
In that moment, all I wanted was to see Archie’s face. So I asked if he could trade places with the midwife who knelt in front of me. They managed to make the switch. Now I leaned on Archie and searched his face for “je ne sais quoi.” There it was, as I looked into his eyes. There was the assurance that even though we didn’t have it all figured out, somehow, we’d make it work. We were in this together. God had brought us thus far, and we were gonna be ok. I must have audibly said, “OK” then I began to push.
Bearing down as I roared, the first push broke my water. The next push, and the midwives said they could see the baby’s head. In the middle of the third push, the midwife told me to pause. I knelt on all fours, breathing deeply to relax, and in that moment, I felt the baby rotate. I’d never felt that before! It was incredible. Then the midwife gave me the go-ahead to continue pushing and out came the head. One more roar and my baby was here. The midwives handed him to me, umbilical cord still pulsing and I held him on my belly. A rush of emotions overwhelmed me and I wept for joy, “My baby! My baby is here!”
There was no tearing…there were no blood clots. There was just joy! Archie was disappointed he didn’t get to catch the baby because he thought this was his last chance to do so (but he may yet have an opportunity when baby #4 arrives in a month). Nonetheless, he was thrilled that our son had arrived and that, only about 30 minutes after the midwives had arrived. The toddlers slept through the birth (which was another part of my envisioned perfect birth) and they met him first thing in the morning. I can’t put to words the feelings of euphoria I experienced at this birth. My heart was full of gratitude to God for all of His goodness! My recovery was the smoothest of all my births. The stub of the umbilical cord fell off the baby within less than a week. The two toddlers were thrilled to have a baby brother in the house. It was all just beautiful!
I can testify that every birth is different, and no matter how it transpires, the baby born is an incredible blessing. But I wish every woman could have a birthing experience that was as personally transformative as my third was. It was not just about physical endurance, but about emotional, spiritual, and relational healing. Healing…yes, it was a healing experience. And empowering. And humbling. And blessed. And I’m so thankful that I get to experience the miracle of a life being formed within me and brought into this world one more time!