“Matt, Matt, wake up. I think something’s happening,” I whispered as I hunched my nude body over the side of our bed. I was dropping in and out of reality, and riding this new awareness of sensation. I felt bones shifting, muscles contracting, and electrical impulses dancing up and down my spine. This shockwave was far more intense than anyone could have prepared me for. I was freediving to a depth I had never known before, and I was traveling very quickly. In our birthing class, I was instructed to submerge my hand in ice for up to two minutes to confront the mental reactions that follow perceived pain. This was a new (to me) perspective; I was encouraged (and allowed) to feel discomfort without labeling it as pain.
Removing that negative connotation and permitting myself to explore discomfort, I dove deep into the colorful abyss of labor. Everything appears grainy, almost as if I am in and out of consciousness. I audibly navigate from our bedroom into the kitchen; the oven on the clock reads 12:16 am. I get to the car with the help of my mother and Matt; we move quickly because it’s clear that my body is progressing with speed. I had read birthing books and heard other stories, and everyone always spoke of a pause between contractions. Where was my break? Why wasn’t there any delay in between these intense waves? Am I going to be able to do this? Or am I going to die?
I was wheeled into triage with the cliche greeting of, “Hang in there. First-time moms are usually in labor for a while.” I cringed at the thought and knew this was going to be fast-moving. Listening to my baby’s fluttering heartbeat come through the fetal doppler, I surrender even further. We’re told that I am six centimeters dilated and that the amniotic sac has ruptured. It’s 1:20 now, and we’re brought to our room; I am swiftly met with my hospital-appointed doula named Leah. We make brief and intimate introductions as I slowly (and painfully) update her on where I am in this birthing process. Leah informs me that she’s going to get the tub filled with warm water, and I brush her off because I have no space to think.
With closed eyes, I shift my body into different shapes on the hospital bed. I am clenching, grinding, huffing, gripping, and internally pleading for a break. Labor is a thoughtless land. There is no time to think, process, or comprehend the experience. I am anchored into the present moment and gripping the bed on my hands and knees. I groan and yell, trying to diffuse the trapped energy and guide her through the birth canal. Doula Leah comes back into the room at 2:20 to tell me that the tub is ready; my reply is sharp, “What is a warm tub going to do for me at this point?” She says, “It will help to slow things down.” I try to comply at snail speed and engage my body for movement, but as I turn on my side, I hear my mom call out, “Please check her before she stands up.” Thank goodness for mothers’ intuition; I am nine centimeters dilated and ready to push.
Lying on my right hip, I ask out loud to anyone in the room, “CAN I PUSH?” That was my mind’s way of receiving validation as it tried to keep up with my body. The nurse said to “wait for the midwife,” and the doula said, “push when you need to.” I didn’t need external permission to follow the course of labor instinctively. I was facing death head-on and undoubtedly ready to become undone in the name of birth. Still, without a break from contractions, I bear down and find strength in the depths of misery. I cannot run, I cannot fight; I can only roar into the discomfort and break into the collective wisdom from every mother before me. I am not the first person to journey this space between life, death, and rebirth. My body feels as if it’s combusting, and I’m launched back into reality when I hear the midwife say with urgency, “Her heart rate is dropping. Samantha, you have to push! Give a big push.” And with that, my daughter was earthside and placed on my chest. I let out a tearful sigh as I finally felt the pause I had been begging for. Only now, I was resting in a psychedelic eutopia instead of racing through the labyrinth of darkness.
Out here in the dry salt flats of Nevada, time stands still. The air is thick and dust filled. I draw a line on the windshield of my car in the exact same spot everyday to watch how many layers of dust settle here. A lingering stench of what I would imagine a bag of…
Rapid Rebirth pt. 3
My daughter, Liana, arrived at 2:54 in the morning, on September 7, 2018, less than three hours from the start of contractions. According to the American Pregnancy Association, rapid labor is characterized by labor that can last as little as three hours, also known as precipitous labor. I had never heard of this term prior…
Rapid Rebirth pt. 1
Holding onto the edge of the hospital bed, I release low and guttural groans as I drop deeper into my physical body. I have been preparing for this moment for the last nine months, and now that it’s here, I am trying to catch my breath. There is no pause, no break, no moment to…
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