- Lisa McMichael
Groping in the darkness, I reached for my ringing phone at midnight. I had been asleep for less than an hour. My daughter Julia's voice was sweet and almost bashful. "Mom" she said,"my water broke." I asked her how she felt and she answered, "Excited, but scared." Appropriate feelings when you are about to enter into the experience of birthing your first baby.
I met her and her husband at the hospital, then watched her navigate all the paperwork, physical probing, and a painful exam. She was calm and the contractions were mild. Finally settled into her room, her pain level increased, and she wanted to get into the shower. At her request, I helped her wash her hair. I asked her husband to call the doula. The contractions became harder, although not regular, and my daughter transitioned out of the shower and into her room, where she began walking through the labor pain. Her 'birth dance' had begun. Her body continued to tune into the exquisite, primal knowledge of preparation for the birth of this child. This is a dance without formal instruction, so powerful that the knowledge is deep within her, innate, wisdom carried down through maternal ages. I watched her walk through her contractions, which now were closer together, stronger and deeper. As the contractions intensified, she stopped, rose on her feet to her toes as the pain crested to a peak, and when the pain had washed over her, she began walking again, in her maternal ritual.
Her doula was on one side, her husband on the other. I pressed acupressure pain points at times and gave her homeopathic remedies to assist the process. Her wise and experienced physician, when present, stood at the back of the room unobtrusively, observing my daughter and watching the monitor. He knew to let the dance unfold with nature's wisdom at the helm, yet was present to intervene should the need arise. Her doula offered wise advice, and her partner an ever-present support.
After four hours she was tiring and only four centimeters dilated. I changed the remedy I was giving her, hoping this would promote more progress. Her labor began to increase in intensity. She leaned on her husband for support when she could not support herself, swaying back and forth, back and forth, focused on the rhythm of contractions welling within her.
As I watched my daughter in the process of birthing her child, my first grandchild, and my daughter's birth into motherhood, I found it difficult to see my adult child in so much pain. I wondered why this dance is so painful. Her moans echoed my own sounds made during her birth, the same tones and vocalizations, a unifying cry connecting mothers everywhere. After two more hours, my daughter began to squat during the contractions, feeling she could not continue her dance much longer. It was now after 8 AM, and she was exhausted.
Her behavior indicated she was transitioning into the pushing stage of labor. The doula and her husband assisted her move onto the bed. My daughter was instructed not to cry out in pain, but to take that energy, bear down, and push. After only a few pushes, the physician showed me and my son-in-law, the baby's head on the verge of emerging. With renewed strength, my daughter bore down, the crowning head now visible, coated in white vernix. His little body followed, flailing, awakening to the world. Baby was laid on her mother's lap, and she visually saw, for the first time, the life that had been stored away inside her nurturing and protecting body.
My daughter greeted her baby with an exclamation of "My son! Is he alright?". She was assured that he was perfect. Dad cut the cord, and baby nestled in his mother's arms, adored by all in the room.
I am so proud of my daughter. We are now even closer, as we share our motherhood experiences. I recognize the increased strength and fortitude in her character, gained as she persevered through incredible pain to bring forth her child. She has gained a resiliency, a belief in herself, that she can rise to the challenges that life may bring to her. She is now and forever a mother, and she excels in that role.