I’m almost 43 yrs old, pregnant with my 7th child, and on bed rest. I’m on my second round of antibiotics to treat a stubborn UTI, feeling nauseous, drowsy, and achy. I’m 2 days shy of 36 weeks and need to hang on till the day after thanksgiving for my midwife to legally attend to me at home. I hope this baby will hold on longer, as there is still so much I want to get done around my house before he comes.
I’d like to share the best advice I ever got about giving birth.
I’ll take you back to birth #1…
…and the sheer panic I felt as a 17 yr old kid lying on a bed at Evans army hospital. I had been in agony all night being pumped full of pitocin to keep my labor moving. I clearly remember holding my breath most of the night as I moved in and out of reality. I remember the bright lights in my face, doctors coming in and out of my room, putting their hands in and out of my vagina. I had taken Lamaze classes, but none of it could be remembered in the tremendous waves of non-stop pain that threatened to drown me. That first baby took an hour of pushing to get out, and even with an episiotomy and really bad tearing, he still broke his clavicle when I delivered his shoulders.
Was slightly easier. I still couldn’t get past my habit of breath holding when things got too painful. It was almost as if I was trying to cut off the oxygen to my brain so I could enter the comfort of darkness and sleep where the pain couldn’t follow. This baby was a full pound smaller, and with a reasonably sized head. The labor stalled like the first. I was again given pitocin, but not for as many hours. Yet again I was left feeling like I was not in control of any aspect of my birth.
I took another birthing class in preparation of my third birth. We went over the moving, walking, breathing, and meditation. None of it stuck, but there was one thing our instructor said that did stick. She had described how keeping the mouth open helps with dilation. She said, “keep your mouth open. Your cervix will do what your mouth does.”
This single bit of information is all I needed to carry with me to help me move beyond my breath holding days, to help me move beyond the tremendous fear and tensing up that resulted as flashbacks of sexual trauma invaded my being and shut my body down while my goal was to open up to let my baby out.
With baby #3, my last hospital birth, I just focused on that one thing. My jaw open, lips parted, and the craziest low, growling dinosaur noises coming from deep in my throat. The delivery wing was silent except for me. I assume the other moms had chosen epidurals (I have always been too frightened of pain relief and epidurals). My labor moved fast. I dilated from 4-10cm in less than an hour. When it was time to push, it was involuntary. My body was doing everything on its own. Even in that moment when my baby was crowning and I could feel the strong desire to flee, the feeling of being torn in half, and faced with the feeling of pain that could surely kill me, I kept my mouth open, let loose all the low growls, and surrendered.
Births #4, 5 and 6
All came so much more easily now that I knew the secret. I could work on nesting til the last minute. I could enjoy the process because I was armed with knowledge that allowed me to feel like I didn’t have to fight My body. That even though my pain was very real, I no longer had to fall into fight, flight, or freeze. Keeping my mouth open allowed me not only to learn to advocate for myself, but also to trust my body and work with it for an easier birth.
Keep your mouth open, ladies.