DawningLife Midwifery

Experienced homebirth midwives serving Metro-Atlanta and North Georgia families for over 35 years!

Liam Forrester

It was at the end of July and I was a week away from my due date. That afternoon I was at the vet with my 13 year-old invalid dog Boo, trying to figure out a way to help her be as comfortable as possible in her last days (I had decided to hold off on helping her let go of this life until after my baby had come—I hadn’t wanted to experience the grief of her loss while I was carrying my child).

It was at the end of July and I was a week away from my due date. That afternoon I was at the vet with my 13 year-old invalid dog Boo, trying to figure out a way to help her be as comfortable as possible in her last days (I had decided to hold off on helping her let go of this life until after my baby had come—I hadn’t wanted to experience the grief of her loss while I was carrying my child).

While there, one of the vet techs and I got to talking about the trials and tribulations of late pregnancy—I was uncomfortable to say the least and by this time had gotten really good at good-humored whining. Before I left the tech mentioned a local Italian restaurant named Scallini’s that was famous for its labor-inducing eggplant parmesan recipe. She told me that they were so confident that their recipe worked that they offered a free dinner-for-two to any woman who had their dish if she didn’t go into labor within 48 hours after eating it. My curiosity was piqued—I was already getting impatient.

That night, my husband Michael had a yoga class to teach and I found myself alone in our kitchen staring at a barren refrigerator. “Hmmm,” I thought, “wouldn’t mind trying some good Italian food- Scallini’s is too far away but I bet they have eggplant at the new place down the street…can’t hurt right?”

The take-out food evidence well hidden (it was so good I just couldn’t find it in me to share with my husband), the next day was uneventful. Mostly I was just hot- rarely a summer day would I venture out, especially in the 99 degree weather “Hotlanta” was famous for.

Early the next morning around 3am, I woke up for one of my many nightly bathroom trips and noticed some mild…something… I guess you could call it a ‘crampy’ feeling. Ten minutes after shutting my eyes I noticed it again… “hmmmm, could it be?” I thought.

I waited another hour, paying close attention to the rhythms of my body. Around 4:30 I figured it would be a good idea to wake Michael to let him know it was time. He got up and started running around making sure that the details of life got taken care of- paying bills, housecleaning, making phone calls, calling into work, etc.

I went back to sleep.

When I woke up again at 8:30 the contractions were getting to be about 7 minutes apart and felt a little stronger—uncomfortable but hardly painful. I puttered around for awhile then called my midwife. She told me to call her in a couple of hours—to move around when I felt called to, take deep breaths, and rest as much as possible. We had some time before things were going to crank up a notch.

Feeling a need to get out of the house to walk around 11:30 Michael and I decided to venture over to a newfound wooded haven that a photographer friend of ours had taken us to just few days earlier to do some pregnancy pictures. It was a beautiful little wooded area not 4 minutes away—one of those perfect hidden Atlanta treasures—a much better alternative to feeling on display by roaming our heavily populated neighborhood. The contractions were starting to get intense at this point, about 6 minutes apart, and I was anxious to connect my bare feet to Mother Earth—to see if She could help us along. On the way to the woodland path we had to pull over a couple of times—the driving movement hindered my need to concentrate and have a sense of being grounded.

And help She did, our Mother Earth, more so then I imagined She would. I went from every six to every three minutes within minutes after setting my bare feet down. It was intense. What I had hoped would be a good hour of romping around in the woods turned into less then a 10 minute venture. We got in the car and went back home.

We called the midwife to let her know what was going on and she let us know she was getting ready to leave. Debbie indicated that she would be there within the hour and that I should relax as much as possible. I lay down on our bed and Michael left for about 45 minutes to get me some things from the grocery store as well as make the number of phone calls to family and friends. When he returned he had our spiritual teacher, Jaya Devi, with him, whom we had asked to be with us on our baby’s birthday. Less then 10 minutes later our midwife Debbie and her assistant Nicole arrived. Debbie checked my dilation right off the bat—I was four centimeters. Michael and Jaya Devi switched off helping me breathe through the contractions while Debbie and Nicole readied their equipment and our birthing pool.

A half hour later I got in the pool. It was definitely calming, water always has had that affect on me—but I felt the need to shift positions a lot.

From here on I was definitely a high maintenance laboring mom. At least a dozen times I had Michael, Jaya Devi, or the midwives helping me as I shifted from the pool to the bed to the bathroom back to the pool.

At around 4pm Lori, my sister-in-law, showed up. She was to be our camera-woman. Having just gotten through another contraction in the pool, I looked up at her across our dimly lit bedroom. All I could offer was a week wave and “hey there”. I was so deeply turned inward with the work my body had me doing that I just couldn’t engage. I felt like we were two kids wanting to play on the playground together, only I was on the outside of the fence wistfully looking through the chain links.

So there we were, all six of us (seven, if you count the babe-to-be-born) crammed into our bedroom along with our five foot diameter birthing pool. Between contractions I meandered about talking and mumbling orders for more water, juice or cold washcloths. At one point I looked over at Jaya Devi and told her I felt like a drunk woman. She laughed and said that I looked like a drunk woman. Not surprisingly- my hair was messily pulled up and frizzed out in every direction; make-up at that point would have been laughable; and I was as big-bellied naked as they come. I had definitely lost all sense of modesty.

The soft music playing and darkness calmed me. Nicole, the midwife assistant, had to keep monitoring the baby’s heartbeat from time to time with a handheld fetal monitoring unit since the baby’s heart rate was slower then normal. I hated it and my crankiness shone through a few times when I yelled and pushed her and the machine away—it involved having to put pressure on my belly which was really uncomfortable. Luckily Deb was able to talk me through it with a firm voice of authority—from then on I let Nicole do her job unencumbered.

I found a couple of moments where I felt irritated and distracted with momentary conversations that tried to crop up with the others and luckily was able to give voice to my need for quiet. I imagine the minutes felt like they were ticking slowly away for the others—for me, time felt suspended—almost non-existent. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a strong sense of being in the moment. It was… intense… and somewhat disconcerting. More then anything I just wanted to be able to BE STILL. My body had another agenda and would not be ignored.

Around 6 o’clock I was in the pool worrying about Jaya Devi having to leave to go teach our weekly Spiritual Growth and Meditation class. I felt a bit selfish about having her 60-70 some odd students left without her while she was with us (we’re all pretty attached to sitting at her feet meditating and listening to her teachings). Michael must have mirrored that worry and respectfully approached her about it. “I’m not going anywhere,” she said, “they can figure it out!”

Relieved and still very much laboring my next vaginal check showed me to be dilated to nine and a half centimeters. Deb told me to go ahead and try pushing a little to help my ripened cervix open that last half centimeter. Finally—the baby was moments away!

Or so we thought…

I had always heard that a laboring woman should push as if she were trying to have a bowel movement. It was such a weird sensation—one I did not like at all. I was also embarrassed. Rude as it may sound, I was afraid my hind end was going to rip open and all kind of unmentionables were going to come flying out! And GOOD GOD did it hurt!

This fear created a sense of inhibition. There was such frustration at not being able to make my body do what I wanted it to do. Four hours later, I was exhausted. We had moved from the birthing pool (I just couldn’t get into a comfortable position) to the bed and finally to birthing stool. I had Michael sitting on the edge of the bed behind me, both Deb and Nicole sitting on the floor between my legs and Lori and Jaya Devi sitting behind them.

At about 10:15 I hit a wall. I started crying between contractions, believing there was something wrong with my body—that my pelvis was somehow deformed. In my drunken-like state I kept saying that I don’t want to go to the hospital over and over, believing that that’s what would have to happen if the baby didn’t come soon. I knew 4 hours was a long time to be in the pushing stage. Everyone on my support team reassured me that I was doing great—that I was just beginning to figure out how to push and that we were progressing. Exhausted between contractions, I leaned back into Michael’s arms and in a daze chanted “Ma, Ma, Ma, Ma”—the name of the Mother—asking Her to help me.

And then, just when I was about to say I give up and say “Call the hospital,” Debbie told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head.

All of a sudden I had a second wind. I knew our baby was coming no matter what, that I was going to have to give it everything I had in me to get the pain all over with and finally hold my little one. A few more pushes and then…

…the Ring of Fire.

I had heard of The Ring—that push before last, I said, “that’s it, that’s the Ring of Fire!” Fire is the perfect word to describe it—my vagina was on fire.

The next push was my last… I thought while the head was coming out “No – oh Good GOD!... Now THAT’S the RING OF FIRE- OH F*#K!”
Slip-Slide-Bam-Boom-Screech… I had a baby boy!

And how perfect was it that our beloved teacher was able to reach out and help catch.

Debbie immediately placed him in my arms. I think the first words I said to my son were “Oh my God, we have a baby, oh my God we have a baby, oh my God… you’re so slimy!”

Nonetheless I was transfixed—it was Love at first sight.

Moments later we were lying on the top of the bed multi-tasking…Nicole and I delivered the placenta while I took a stab at nursing for the first time. Jaya Devi lying next to me giving me the verbal “HIGH FIVE!” while cooing at our beautiful baby boy. And of course he was pooping on me.

Later it was time for Debbie to take him to the other end of the bed to clean him up and do all his APGAR testing. He was crying while getting the work done so I asked Jaya Devi to move down with him and talk to him while Nicole and I were finishing up getting me cleaned up.

Michael and Lori stepped out of the room for a bit to stretch, get something to drink and talk with our two friends waiting in the living room (these two men were great—they heard EVERYTHING and spent most of the time vacillating between hyperventilation, prayer, and cheering me on through each contraction).

When Debbie was done cleaning our son up Michael got to hold him for the first time… and got pooped on.

“Oh no, we may be in trouble” laughing as I thought, “I hope we’re not starting a lifetime trend here…”

Daddy Michael was sufficiently grossed out at the black, tar-like substance oozing off the front of his favorite t-shirt but he laughed. “Guess we’ll be throwing this thing away!”

It was not long after midnight as the midwives started to gather their things. Our cheerleading friends Bob and Jaya Das came in to congratulate us and meet the new little man in our lives. Lori gave up the camera and held and loved on the baby. And Jaya Devi gave our boy and I one last hug and kiss, promising to stop by the next day.

Slowly the house cleared out and we were left to ourselves to further on the process of falling in love. Our long day of labor exhausted the three of us and after enjoying a few moments of stillness and quiet together for the first time as a family, blissful sleep stepped in and the three of us melted into bed. Our work was done…

…or so we thought.

The next day dishes of food magically started appearing on our doorstep from those in our spiritual community. We found out that that night, while we were in the throes of our most difficult part of laboring, all of Jaya Devi’s students—our community, came to meditiation class and were told of our being in labor. 80 some odd people sat in our beautiful interfaith temple chanting the names of the Divine Mother in the beautiful Sanskrit language, keeping Michael, myself and our child in their thoughts, hearts, and prayers.

We can never repay this gift—the gratitude is too much for words.