Four Birth Stories, Part 2

This post is a continuation of an earlier post. If you haven’t already, you should read Part 1 first. Even if you have seen Part 1 already, you might want to take another look at it. There’s an updated photo, and the pictures now have captions.


Nothing is as precious as a newborn; this was our third-born (photo credit: Oksana Dyachenko)

To me, nothing is as precious as a newborn; this was our third-born
(photo credit: Oksana Dyachenko)

These contractions were stronger than the practice contractions I’d been experiencing for months, but they didn’t establish the textbook pattern of getting stronger and closer together. I was in frequent contact with my medical-school friend, and we decided that it must be false labor. But false labor or not, it seemed to be accomplishing something, and I was reminded of my first labor, when I had experienced weak, irregular contractions for 48 hours before finally going to the hospital and finding out that I was already 7 centimeters dilated, almost ready to have the baby!

The anxiety I had been experiencing turned into a strangling sense of dread. This oppressive feeling blanketed every waking moment, like the foreboding that a prisoner on death row must feel as his execution date nears. Frantic from the suspense, I was almost ready to check into the hospital and brave the medical system, but my husband, ever calm and logical, convinced me that was a bad idea.

I finally admitted my fragile emotions and asked friends and family to pray for me, and amazingly, peace descended. I continued having irregular contractions, but rather than fighting and pleading with God to delay the birth, I embraced the moment and even became excited to see our new baby.

 

PeterBirthCoaching

This scene from my third labor, as my husband calmly coaches me through a contraction while I relax in the tub, was what I was picturing for my fourth labor as well. But things didn’t quite go according to plan.
(photo credit: Oksana Dyachenko)

I woke up around 5 a.m. on the third day after I had started having contractions and realized I was in true labor. I was having stronger contractions less than ten minutes apart. Figuring the baby would probably be born sometime that afternoon or evening, I decided not to wake my husband yet. Instead, I just lay quietly in bed, practicing my relaxation techniques with each contraction. Shortly after 6 a.m., I woke my husband to ask him to scrub and fill the bathtub. My contractions were becoming uncomfortable. They weren’t exactly painful, as long as I remained completely relaxed, but I thought the warm water would feel nice. I also called my medical-student friend and my husband’s sister and sister-in-law to let them know it was time to come over. By the time my husband finished with the bathroom, where he also scrubbed the floor to get it ready for the birth, our kids were awake, so he went downstairs to feed them breakfast.

I was now having frequent, intense contractions, and every time I tried to go into the bathroom to get in the bathtub, I would feel another contraction coming on before I got there, and I would scurry back to bed so that I could be lying down and fully relaxed before it hit with full force. I began to wonder if I might be in transition, the final stage of labor before the mother has to start pushing, usually characterized by extremely intense contractions very close together and emotional feelings of insufficiency. With my first three labors, I had relied on my husband’s coaching to help me remain calm and in control during this stage. It had never occured to me that I might have to manage it on my own, but there I was, by myself, without enough time between contractions to fetch my husband. However, I don’t recall being concerned about his absense, because the task of coaching myself was consuming all my attention.

Without my husband to serve as my focal point and calmly talk me through each contraction, I had to improvise. I had never rehearsed for this possibility. I remembered a technique I had read about and decided to try it. Instead of keeping my eyes open and choosing a focal point to distract me from the sensations of the contraction, I closed my eyes and focused on the feelings of the muscles working, picturing my uterus and how each contraction was opening the way for my baby to come. All the while, I continued to breathe deeply and calmly while maintaining the complete physical relaxation I had been practicing for this moment.

Before long I heard sounds that let me know the women I had called had arrived. It wasn’t a moment too soon, as I had just realized I was having the urge to push! I had one thought: get into the bathroom and prepare for this baby to come! As I passed the door to my kids’ bedroom, I saw that our friend was there putting on her medical scrubs. She and my husband quickly joined me in the bathroom, where I was trying to figure out if it was really okay for me to start pushing. She verified that I was fully dilated, and two contractions later, my fourth son was in my arms! It had only been three hours since I had awaken and realized that I was in true labor.

Picture of my fourth son moments after his birth

Birth #4: My fourth son, just moments after he was born, as I smile at his three older brothers, who missed the actual birth by seconds, because it happened so quickly!
(photo credit: Stephanie Markey)

Only a woman who has experienced the throes of labor and delivery followed by the birth of a healthy baby can fully understand the overwhelming mixture of relief and elation I felt at that moment. There is nothing like it in all the world. And having a newborn to cuddle and nurse is one of the sweetest of all pleasures.

As I reflected on that morning during the following days, I realized something astonishing. Although the physical sensations of labor had been intense and all-consuming, I honestly could not recall having experienced any pain. I knew that women who use the visualization technique I had turned to in my husband’s absense sometimes report having painless labors, but I never thought that I would be one of them.

I’m used to talking about labor without using the word pain, because I don’t want to contribute to the already deeply entrenched misconception that labor is nothing but hours of torture. Sadly, many women are misinformed and ill-equipped as they approach childbirth, and the fear they feel about the process translates into physical tension that causes much higher pain levels than what a relaxed woman would experience. I don’t want to contribute to this misinformation and fear, so I always portray labor in a positive light, and I usually choose euphemisms for the word pain, especially when I’m talking with women who have not yet had children. However, I would be lying if I said that labor doesn’t hurt at all.

I believe that childbirth is a beautiful experience, and a mother who is knowledgable and prepared can manage and minimize the pain, but in my experience there had always been varying levels of discomfort—of actual pain. Until this time. It still amazes me when I think about it. If God blesses my husband and me with more biological children, I don’t think I will try to recreate another painless labor, because I don’t want to be distracted by pressure to achieve that ideal. I will simply focus on relaxing with the calm confidence of a woman who knows that she is control of her response to the sensations of labor. However, it’s incredibly empowering to know that the Creator equipped us women with the ability not only to bear children, but also to manage the pain of their birth so effectively that it actually disappears.

Note: If you are interested in natural pain management during labor, I highly recommend Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon. Clicking on the title will take you to the book’s listing on Amazon. This is not an affiliate link. I will receive no compensation if you choose to purchase the book; I’m just trying to be helpful. If you live in the United States, Canada, and a few other countries, it’s also possible to find Bradley Method classes to attend.


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6 thoughts on “Four Birth Stories, Part 2

  1. Pingback: Four Birth Stories, Part 1 | Mommy Joys

  2. Thanks so much for sharing these stories! I am curious what procedures you had to follow to get the proper documentation and such following the home births. We live in Romania and are interested in having home births once the Lord gives us children. However, I’ve heard varying stories, some saying that they weren’t allowed to have their children born at home overseas, and others that said they didn’t have any problems. Do you have any suggestions or information about getting the child’s birth certificate and registering the baby’s citizenship? Thanks for any information.

    • Hi, Kristy! I have no idea what the laws are in Romania, but I’ll give you what information I can. I don’t even know what the current law in Ukraine is, since they seem to change frequently. There were different requirements for what we needed to do to get the birth certificates for our first and second home births. There was even a short period of time between our two home births when parents who had a baby at home had to take the matter to court in order to get a birth certificate! We had friends in this situation who made it into a local newspaper article.

      I would advise you to find out beforehand what you will be required to do to get a birth certificate should you deliver at home. Since the official stance on home birth can be very negative, you probably want to be as discreet as possible when trying to learn this information. If you choose to have a midwife attend the birth, she usually will know all the requirements and how best to meet them. One thing that our midwife advised, which had never occurred to me, was to keep the placenta in the freezer until we had the birth certificate. In the event of a court case, it was proof that I had given birth to the child.

      To answer your question about what we needed: with our first home birth, we needed the father’s and mother’s passports accompanied by notarized translations, our marriage certificate with a letter of apostille and notarized translations of both, a document from the closest government children’s clinic stating that the baby had been born, and the presence and passports of two Ukrainian witnesses to the birth. With our second home birth, I don’t think we needed the witnesses, but in order to get the document attesting to the birth of the baby, the infant and I had to check into the hospital after the birth.

      Once you have a legal birth certificate from the local authorities, you and your husband and the baby all need to go in person to the nearest U.S. Consulate (assuming you are U.S. citizens) to apply for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad. This is the equivalent of a U.S. birth certificate for any American citizen born overseas. You can apply for the child’s first passport and Social Security number at the same time, so when you go in to apply, you should have both parents’ passports, your marriage certificate, the local birth certificate, and two U.S.-passport-sized photos of the baby.

      At the end of the day, I don’t think anyone can really prevent you from giving birth at home, because sometimes it happens, even if the mother was intending to give birth at the hospital! It’s just that in some countries you may face more disapproval and difficulty obtaining the birth certificate. If Romania seems like it would be one of those places, you could talk to the U.S. Consulate (or the embassy of your country, if you aren’t Americans) in Romania to find out what, in any, help they could offer in the event that you weren’t able to get a birth certificate. It actually took us nine months to get a Ukrainian birth certificate for our firstborn, which is ironic, since he was born in a government hospital, not at home! We made numerous trips to the U.S. Consulate during that process to get advice, and they were always very helpful.

  3. Thanks for sharing these beautiful stories! I am curious about your home births… How did you go about getting the proper documentation and such to get your baby’s birth certificate and the other things needed to register the baby’s US citizenship? I have been researching this and was just curious if you had any suggestions, problems, tips, etc. Thanks for any information!

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