I realized a few minutes into the prenatal visit that I was being interviewed. She leaned forward in her chair, a page full of notes on her lap. She began to tick off her list… “First, I want someone to take care of me who will know what to do if something goes wrong. But basically – if things are cool – I want them to stay out of my face! How do you feel about that?” she asked, throwing down the gauntlet.
Before I could respond she continued, her words tumbling out. “Do you believe that women can know things about giving birth without being taught? Do you have expectations of the people you take care of? Would you insist that I go to those ridiculous childbirth classes? Do you need to be in control, or can we be partners in my care?”
Her face was flushed. Finally, she paused. She lowered her head a moment, then looked up, took a deep breath and stared me straight in the eye, waiting for my response. After a while I replied. “These are good questions and I am happy to answer them, but first, I would like to hear the story of your last birth.
She sighed and closed her eyes, as if remembering. She didn’t speak for a long time, and then… “I had such hopes for a natural birth. I was healthy. I read books. Took childbirth classes.” She hesitated. I sat patiently and waited. ”When I went into labor I did everything I had been taught to do. But there came a moment when I experienced an energy that felt primal, like I was a wild animal. It ripped through me, and I wanted to roar. I thought, ‘Fuck all this fancy breathing stuff’. I wanted to shout and strut and throw myself all over the room. I started to go there, but then I thought…what the hell am I doing? What is happening to me? Doubt struck me dead in my tracks. Trust myself? Trust others? My body was telling me one thing – my rational mind another. I felt like there was a fight going on in my brain. I wanted to be a good patient and do what I had been taught, but the urge to do otherwise felt compelling and dangerous. So then I panicked and tried to stuff what I was feeling. My labor stalled out. I thought I was going crazy and started crying. The nurses persuaded me to take some medication to get ‘back in control’. It only made me feel confused and I cried more. It was awful. My baby got born eventually, but I felt that I had failed myself somewhere in the midst of it all. I don’t want that to happen again,” she said, her eyes filling with tears.
She looked at me expectantly. I smiled. ”You have SO come to the right person!” I assured her. “I support women and their deep instincts. I believe that they know what to do when they trust and rely on their innate wisdom. I will keep you safe so you are free to give birth in your own way with your own voice. We will do this together.” And we did. Throughout her prenatal care our relationship deepened. I came to know and respect her strengths and needs. We developed a trust in each other.
She went into labor in the middle of the night. I slipped quietly into the hospital birthing room. The lights were dim. She and her husband were dancing cheek to cheek to a Frank Sinatra song playing on a CD player on the dresser. Their eyes were closed. She was moaning – his arms supported her as they moved around the room. Slowly he opened his eyes. He smiled, and whispered gently, “Baby, this is the prom we never had.”
They continued to dance. Sometimes she would pull away and drop to the floor. He would sit in the corner, watching her with lusty adoration. Other times he would lie down and spoon with her, massaging her back and legs. She was completely absorbed in her oceanic rhythms, wave after wave sweeping over her.
I remained very still – a protector in the wings watching over this family, listening to the strong, steady heartbeat of the baby, captivated by the power of this woman. Occasionally she looked in my direction—checking in. I smiled and gently nodded my head “yes” – letting her know that she was perfect and safe, that what she was doing was working.
Suddenly—her eyes bolted open. She was kneeling on the floor, bent over the bed. I could hear a deep, guttural grunt in her breath. “Oh no,” she exclaimed. “Damn!” “What’s wrong,” I asked. “I can’t believe it,” she uttered in dismay. “I’m pushing already. I was having such a great time; now my labor is ending.” Indeed it was. After three more contractions, squatting there by the bedside, she delivered a healthy baby boy. I was stunned. I had never met any woman who felt that her birth experience was too short!
Women are amazing. When they are able to bring both sides of their brain together like this, they operate from a deeply intuitive place and go into the zone. That zone is unique for every woman, but it is a place of authenticity and it can be trusted. They birth from a place of profound knowing and discover that they have the strength and wisdom to transcend the limits of their ordinary human experience. This discovery is an unexpected gift that will keep on giving the rest of their lives…