Crossing Borders with Andrea
by Sister MorningStar
© 2015 Midwifery Today, Inc. All rights reserved.
[Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 113, Spring 2015. It is an excerpt from the author’s upcoming book, MorningStar Midwifery—The Mystical Life of Birth.]
Photo by Annette Wilson
Andrea lives in Nicaragua and was pregnant in 2014 with her first baby. The hospital cesarean section rate in her area is 80%. All first-time mothers either schedule a cesarean or receive an episiotomy. Induction is recommended and standard at 39 weeks and required by 40 weeks. Andrea was healthy but confused by the standard of care in her country.
Andrea has a friend in the US who had recently birthed easily at home. Andrea found a doctor who was considered open-minded—she promised to help Andrea achieve a natural birth in the hospital. But as Andrea neared her expected time in late November, the doctor explained the necessity and importance of induction. She said the placenta was dying, the fluid was gone and the baby, too, would die. As they spoke about the details surrounding an induction, Andrea asked if she could use the one private room for delivery. The doctor said all first-time mothers deliver in the operating room because they will need stitches. Andrea then asked for delayed cord clamping; the doctor said she would agree to wait only two minutes before clamping the cord. Andrea asked for the placenta to come on its own; the doctor explained that it cannot be left because it starts to die. The doctor then did a brief ultrasound and found fluid and a head-down baby. After an internal exam, the doctor found Andrea’s cervix 2 cm dilated. Later Andrea told me, “Oh Sister, the exam hurt so badly!” The doctor pleaded for Andrea to stay for an induction. Andrea spoke of her fears of an eventual surgical delivery. The doctor spoke of the risks of waiting. Andrea insisted, “But there must be some risk to cutting me wide open! I am going with the other risk.” She then restated her desires for a natural birth and went home. Andrea wanted something different.
Andrea called me at my home in the US, and we discussed her experiences, her past, her feelings, the doctor’s actions and statements, Andrea’s desires, needs, people resources and her instinctual knowing. Andrea’s expected due date was November 24 and it was November 29 when she called me again. She spoke of her confusion with the medical way with birth and her own instinct that it should be a natural straightforward event. Fear dominated the birth stories that circled around her. “Every time I interact with the medical people, I become filled with fear. Otherwise, I feel calm.” Andrea decided to keep waiting.
Andrea and I stayed in contact by e-mail every day. The days became a week and we entered December. Each day she reported that the baby was active more at night, that she enjoyed her morning walks to the beach with her dog and that she was planning to stay home as long as possible and then go into the clinic at the end. “However, I can’t imagine moving through a busy Nicaraguan clinic and into a surgical room without being tense.” I asked about her postpartum plans and what help she would have after the baby arrived. I suggested she hire a local older woman with experience with new mothers. “But what would they do?” she asked. And so began the talk about physical, emotional and spiritual recovery after the birth of a baby.
Andrea continued to wait. Despite the urgings of well-meaning friends and medical folk, Andrea waited. And so I waited with her.
“MorningStar? This is Colin. I am calling for Andrea. She wants to talk with you.” It was December 5, 2014, at 12:50 am deep in the night where I live. I was still awake in front of my fire in Rose Cottage, deep in the woods of Missouri, making prayers for Andrea.
Over the phone I could hear the sounds of a woman in labor. She was breathing heavy and pausing between words. She told me about her busy day and how when she lay down, she couldn’t get comfortable. “I felt gassy and went to the toilet. I think my water broke. There was a gush and clear fluid.” She thought that was around 12:30. We discussed what it might be. The contractions were getting stronger. The pressure in her back hurt. She felt less tense in the shower and that is where she was talking to me with headphones on. Then more big breath sounds.
“Oh Andrea, we have a labor! I am so happy for you!” Her baby was moving a lot. Andrea was lying with her head on a ball, warm water on her back and sipping water in between.
“Oh, oh, umm, oh goodness,” she murmured. “Oh man! Oh! ahhhhh…I feel so gassy…I am having contractions and pooping,” Andrea commented.
“Nature is so nice to make room,” I whispered in between.
“I don’t think I can move. I don’t know how I could get in a car….” She trailed off, then added, “I can’t tell if they are near or far apart.”
“Just rest,” I repeated like a mantra as she drifted off and was quiet for a bit.
“Oh-oooooh, my legs are shaking. I’m nauseous. Ohhhh, ouch, ummmmf!”
“It’s a big one—we can do it,” I encouraged. “Now rest. Rest, my dear, between them.”
For an hour we breathed together with more than 1000 miles between us. I asked if the room was dark and warm. I suggested some towels for her hurting knees and to have Colin create a landing pad in the bathroom for when she wanted to get out of the shower.
“Colin, can you bring in some candles and turn off the lights?” she asked some moments later. “MorningStar, are you there?” she asked into the phone.
“Yes, right with you! You are doing great. So beautiful,” I assured her.
“Colin, can you get some towels for my knees? Too hard. Too hard,” she whispered.
Andrea threw up at 1:50 a.m. “Oh I feel better!”
“Making more room,” I whispered back as we continued our breathing together.
“Oh I want to lie down. Honey, can you make a pallet on the floor with a blanket? All of them,” she requested.
“Any plastic or chux pads?” I asked.
“Have Colin put a towel under your bottom, so you can change it out when it gets soiled,” I suggested.
Andrea lay down on her side and rested. “They are slowing down a little,” she observed.
“To let you get some sleep,” I assured her, and I explained how they would increase in strength and length and then let her adjust before they do that again and eventually work her baby out. Andrea rested.
But not for long. “Oh! That came up through my back and belly! I need to get this shirt off! Okay. Oh! Umph. Okay. Oooooh.”
“Do you want me to help you move over?” asked Colin.
I heard big breathing. She told me her thighs were shaking. “Oh, God! MorningStar, something just burst! A lot more water! Pop!” Andrea described with words and sounds from 1000 miles away. I asked a few questions and she told me the baby was moving. Colin used a flashlight to see that the water was clear. I could hear that the contractions were changing. “Oh! Ouch! Oh!”
“Slow and steady, Andrea. Calm mind. Breathe with me,” I said, getting into the river of birth with her.
“Colin, can you rub my back? Push on my back,” Andrea directed. “I feel it down my legs.”
“Peace to you, Andrea. Peace of mind to you. Rest. Rest now,” I fed into her mind and body.
Then another contraction and another. “Ooo, ouch, ahhhh, ohhhh, ahhh, the bottom of my belly is so sore,” she willingly shared with me. Belching out “Oh my God,” Andrea left behind the world of being polite. It was 2:40 am when Andrea threw up again. Hearing her fluids coming from all openings, I noticed the sounds of a gentle rain starting in Missouri.
“I put my butt in the air, but I don’t know if it helped,” she told me and I knew she was referring to getting the pain off her back. “Colin, push harder. Oh, my back!”
“Breathe with me, Andrea,” I invited her as we worked through a series of unrelenting waves of contractions. And then a pause. She rested for six minutes. It was so quiet.
Up came the wild creature out of her slumber, breathing like a panting tiger. We got through the surprise and I taught her the use of low sounds and of slow and steady breathing. “Oh my God!” she answered me.
“Now rest. You never have to do that one again.”
“She’s really moving. I need to get in the shower again. Colin, turn the water back on. Warm. Warm. WARM!”
Our call dropped. I waited. For nearly an hour I waited, making my prayers. “Perfect timing I ask from the Great Mother. Hail, Andrea, full of grace,” I prayed and waited.
Colin called. “She’s in the shower on her knees leaning against a ball. She’s having another strong contraction. Hold on just a second.”
“I feel like I need to push-poop!” I heard her blurt out while I was still talking with Colin.
“Poop can come out in the shower,” I said.
“MorningStar says poop can come out in the shower,” Colin relayed to Andrea as he handed her the phone.
“I love you, Andrea. You are doing so great,” I began to say.
“MorningStar! I feel like I’m going to push out a big—” Her voice became indistinguishable to my ear. I could feel her body breathing and I could feel the pressure within her. “Every time I have a contraction, I feel like I have to poop,” she finished saying. We breathed together.
“I love you, baby. I love you, Andrea.” I breathed in and out.
“I feel hemorrhoids. Oh my back! Water! Water! Oh, here again. Oh, here it comes! I want to lie down but I can’t.”
“Do you feel pressure down low?” I asked to clarify from the back pressure.
“YES! I feel like it’s pushing out my butt! Ohhhhh! OOOOPH!”
The call dropped again. I waited. “Oh, Great Mother! Come, baby, come!” I said in rhythm to the steady rain now falling over the land. I am grateful for my decades of work in a Third World country and the understanding of failed electricity. I had learned how to wait with understanding.
Twenty-seven minutes later at 4:51 am, the phone rang and all I could hear was the heavy breathing of a wild animal.
“I’m right here, Andrea. I love you,” I answered back to the animal sounds. “Trust your body. Rest in between,” I prompted her. It was now nearly four hours since Colin’s first call to me.
“Ummmph! Oh! Oooooh!” I heard through a wild pant. The litany of sacred sounds began again. No words, just sounds from one wild, instinctual birthing animal in some part of a distant land reaching my ear and soul.
“I love you, Andrea. Uh-huh. So much pressure,” I mirrored back.
“MorningStar, I’m not getting much of a break,” she gasped between the real work she was doing.
“You will get all you need. Trust your body,” I reassured her.
“Ummph! Oh! Urge to push! Oooh! Oooph!”
“Now rest. Your baby is working, too. Now rest.”
“Oh God!” she said more to a higher being than to me. We waited, but not for long.
“Oooooo, Oh, whooooo, whooooo!” said Andrea as she began to blow with her panting. I asked her if she was feeling a pushy feeling each time. “Yes,” she uttered back to me.
“Take a sip of something or a spoon of honey or a bite of banana—just a little energy,” I encouraged.
“Banana! Colin!” she directed.
“Oh, I can’t move! Oh, my back! Oh!” she exclaimed.
“Do you want to try hands and knees?” I asked. She moved and we got a nice little break. “Better on your back?” I whispered, as if I was in the birthing room with her.
“Yea,” she whispered softly back. We all rested.
At 5:30 am the contractions came again—stronger, longer and closer together. “Trust your body. Go deep inside, Andrea—inside to where you feel the pain. Breathe there,” I coached. “Do you want to try standing or maybe leaning on Colin?”
The call dropped. Within minutes, the phone rang and I heard the breathing of a laboring animal. “Hello, Andrea. You are having a baby. A beautiful mother having a baby,” I answered back. The call dropped again.
All I could do was wait and pray. I prayed, “Great Mother, be with her.” An hour passed. I sent an e-mail with encouraging words. The gentle rain in Missouri had become a rainstorm.
“Hello, can you hear me?” Andrea sent her question out into the space between us through a crackling phone device.
“Yes!” I said eagerly, “Yes, how are you doing?” Colin took the ear phones and told me she was on her right side in bed and that he was giving her counter pressure on her back above her butt. I asked if she had been to the toilet or had a poop. He told me that poop kept coming out. He told me he was closing their coffee business for the day. Andrea told me the baby was moving a lot. I told her the baby was repositioning. I told her I was so proud of her and so happy for her. Andrea then gave a rapid pant-blow-pant-blow-pant-pant-pant response to a contraction that demanded her full attention.
“Oh! Ouch! Oooh! Oh, my back!” Andrea communicated more than complained.
“Hips and bones, too?” I inquired.
“Yea!” she confirmed.
I felt it with her. I felt my hips parting as I recalled my first child’s descent. I told my father afterwards that I felt as though someone had hitched a team of horses to either side of me and told them to giddy-up. I felt with Andrea. I breathed with Andrea.
“They’re coming so fast!” she blurted out between contractions that end while another begins.
“You are a strong woman,” I shaped her with word medicine. “Just the last little bit Andrea. Last little bit.”
“Are you sure?!” she stated more than questioned me.
I want to say the last little bit of cervix needs to go away before her body takes over, bringing the baby down and out, but that would be too many words, too much information and too rational. Andrea was entering her old brain and needed her strong instinctual nature. I wanted to go where she was and not bring her back to the world of thought. So I breathed loudly into the phone as she breathed loudly into the cosmos. We entered the world of breath and left words behind. We entered the world of birth.
“Okay! Oh my!” Andrea became teary and began thrashing with her sounds rather than staying focused. “Breathe with me Andrea! Breathe with me and say, ‘I am a strong woman!’” The contractions were every two minutes then with no break in between them. They would rise and fall, rise and fall. Andrea greeted each one with a teary “Okay.”
“It’s okay, Andrea. Your body is making endorphins. Your baby is coming down. You are birthing a baby. The contractions are going to come and they are going to go. You never have to do that one again. Now rest,” I told her when we finally got a three-minute break.
“Colin, spray the biofreeze on my back. Ohhh! Big clear fluid!” Andrea shouted.
“Great,” I responded, “baby is moving down!” Her breaths changed again to deeper, more powerful animal breaths, like the sounds the deer in my woods make. I felt a change in the energy. The teary sounds were gone. A confident voice said to Colin, “Water, water, water. I wish the baby would hurry,” Andrea spoke her truth. “MorningStar, I can do it,” Andrea told me directly.
“Yes, you can!” I harmonized with her. The contractions spaced out a bit and we waited together.
“When you feel stretching or burning, keep breathing and let the tissue stretch and let baby slip into this world,” I instructed with my words as the sounds of her pushing reached my ears. I prepared myself for the eventual drop of our call.
When they came back like the pelting storm on my window, Andrea breathed like a running tiger. “Breathe with me, Andrea. Relax your body. Relax your mind. Relax your mouth. Stay with me.” I midwifed her with all my love and soul.
“Ohhh! So much pressure!” She pleaded. I wondered if the pressure was in her back or her butt. I encouraged her to feel inside.
“There might be a head—inside—uh huh, something!” she described as she felt.
“Colin, help me!” Andrea directed. It was 7:20 am as I reminded her that the first baby will come down and go back, come down and go back, eventually rocking itself out.
“There’s lots of pressure in my back, down low, hips...yeah lots of pressure…” she told me. Determined now, Andrea prompted me, “Okay! Here we go.” She told Colin, “Please keep moving it [my butt] around; feels good.” I had taken a moment earlier to describe to Colin how to move the energy from counter pressure in a contraction to gently moving the buttocks between them to keep the energy loose.
“Thank you, Colin!” I sang out with Andrea.
We alternated between breathing, sips of water, changing positions and praising Andrea. I asked her if she wanted to reach inside again. “I feel something soft. Maybe a cord?” She responded with a hint of worry in her voice.
“I think it is the baby’s head,” I relayed confidently and the call dropped again. Andrea told me in her birth review that she had read about cord prolapse and that the doctor had said there was a cord around the baby’s neck. Like all mothers, when a fear takes hold in their minds in pregnancy, it surfaces in birth.
“Are you there, MorningStar?!”
“Yes! I’m here.”
“I can’t tell what I feel,” Andrea worried aloud.
“Feel on either side and see if you find something hard,” I guided her.
“Yes!” she exclaimed with her discovery.
I felt confident that what she was feeling was the baby’s head and not a cord. “The hardest part is over. Your baby is coming down. You are going to get a little burst of energy,” I reassured her.
“God I hope so,” Andrea echoed with longing. “It’s closer!” she said with surprise after another contraction.
“Say, I love you, baby,” I encouraged her.
Her mother words were wiser than mine. “Hi, baby. Come out!” sang mother Andrea.
“When you feel stretching or burning, keep breathing and let the tissue stretch and let baby slip into this world,” I instructed with my words as the sounds of her pushing reached my ears. I prepared myself for the eventual drop of our call.
“Colin, don’t go far! Oh man!” said Andrea.
“Breathe for your baby,” I said. I knew the baby was near because I felt an urge to poop right along with Andrea. She took some big, slow, long, deep breaths. “Perfect breathing!” I praised her.
“Okay. It’s coming again.” We all breathed with Andrea. Like an elephant circle, we moved together.
“She’s in about an inch. Okay baby,” sang Andrea and she told me the baby was moving. Andrea was then on hands and knees in bed on top of six pillows. After a few contractions, Andrea said, “She’s not moving down any further. I can’t change positions or my back will hurt. Oh! She went back.” It was 8:02 am and dawn had entered my valley.
“Each time you bring her down a little bit further,” I explained. “Let it be big, Andrea. Let it be big.”
“Her feet are moving! Her head goes in and out,” Andrea said back to me. “Oh! The pressure down low! Okay!” We began a new round of consecutive contractions.
“I need water,” was her request when the next break came. “Oh, my God! It’s taking time. She is staying put,” Andrea confessed discouragingly.
“Maybe walk to the toilet?” I wondered aloud and the call dropped again.
When the phone rang, Andrea was in the middle of this question: “Oh God! Do you think I should sit on the toilet?”
“Good idea,” I agreed.
Andrea sat backward on the toilet and leaned forward saying, “Okay baby, we can do this. I’m more open—oh! It’s so big!”
“Let it be big, Andrea. Let it move your baby down,” I continued to say.
Still on the toilet she told me, “Back better, but a lot of pressure. You’re not worried about her are you?” she asked me as a daughter would ask her mother.
I told her confidently, “I have no reason to be. She’s moving, she’s coming down, she is a good size and this is steady labor. Are you worried?” I asked her back.
“No,” she answered. “What about those stories of three pushes and they’re out?” Andrea disclosed the thoughts in her mind. She had been reading my book, The Power of Women, and she had met a Native Nicaraguan on the path who had birthed 14 children at home alone. Andrea had heard stories. Andrea was living her story. I was living her story with her.
“Oh the pressure down low and in my butt, oh! It’s real close. Her head! I want to go back to the bed. Oh yeah. She’s down. Colin, can you see a head or anything?” Andrea reached for confirmation.
“No, not yet,” Colin stated honestly.
It was 8:50 am—eight hours since the first call. “Nap?” I asked.
“She and I can rest after this,” Andrea answered me. There was a silence. A pause. Quiet. “I wish she’d let me take a nap.” Andrea returned to hands and knees in bed. “Oh I’m so tired, so tired.” We entered the phase of worlds between worlds.
Andrea tried to rest and I tried to shower for my day of students. I waited for the call to return. No call. I sent an e-mail saying I was available and to offer praise. I paced like a caged tiger and then settled myself in a squat and breathed with her and hoped she could feel me. At 9:56 am, I sent a message to a few strong women saying, “Calling in the elephant circle for Andrea.” My body and mind relaxed.
At 9:59 am the call came. “We have a happy, baby girl!” sang out Colin. “We couldn’t call because we were busy. She was born three minutes ago. There was a gush of blood, but no placenta. We have some questions. Should the baby be doing anything special?”
I was in joyous shock. I leaped and fell in body, voice and spirit. “Oh! Colin! I am so happy for you!” I sang out in adoration. I had a thousand questions. I tried to pick one. “Can you describe the birth?” I asked. I could hear Andrea talking to her baby in the background. Her voice was steady, cooing, motherly.
Colin told me Andrea had gone back to the toilet since “that was where most progress was being made.” She was sitting backwards on the toilet when the head came out. Andrea told me the next day that she had eased the baby’s head out slowly by breathing like we had talked about. The shoulders were not coming. In Andrea’s story, she said they both felt like they should do something so the baby wasn’t born in the toilet. She said she felt a bit of panic and sensed it from Colin, too. Colin told me he cradled the head in his hands and Andrea hopped backwards onto the landing pad in the bathroom and got in a squat. Colin said that she was a big baby but when the shoulders came, the rest of the body just came out into his hands. He said the baby looked better now and was alert, looking around and nuzzling the nipple. He finished quickly and said, “There’s a lot of blood. What should we do?”
Andrea was in pain, again in her back. Colin told me there was a trickle of blood. I could still hear Andrea talking. I recommended that she get upright and I described how the placenta would just drop out with gravity and a downward push. The baby made a loud cry and I felt all the more convinced that the placenta had detached and was descending and ready to be born. It was 10:08 am.
“Ohhh! Something just came out!” cried Andrea.
Colin said it was more blood. “A lot of blood,” he relayed to me. Andrea was still lying down. I asked if she could chew on some cord, get the baby nursing or feel if the cord was attached to something on the inside.
“I’m upright now,” Andrea told me. She was having contractions, but no placenta. She lay back down. She talked to her baby. “Are you gonna take it? She’s not diggin’ it,” I heard her say. “Come on, little girl. Oh, that’s the part of your head I was feeling,” she said soothingly to her baby girl. Later, we talked about how the ridge between the overlapping bi-parietal bones of the skull in deep descent can feel like a cord. I praised her for nursing her baby and I talked her through tracing the map of the cord inside, finding it attached to something and gently bringing it out, slow and steady. She listened more to her baby than me. “Baby, you’re not behaving like…ahhh, there you go!” A baby had been born and so had a mother.
“Oh my. There’s blood everywhere. We didn’t plan for this,” disclosed Andrea.
“There’s definitely blood coming out,” described Colin.
I talked him through how to follow the cord inside and feel for attachment to something soft. He said he could only feel a cord. Andrea told Colin she went in a bit further and, yes, she felt something attached and that there were other things coming out. I suspected the membranes. Colin told me they were not planning this. He said soberly, “My mom lost a lot of blood with me, so I guess I am…and not prepared for blood and being home.” His words trailed in and out with the poor phone connection.
“Let’s leave that story with your mother’s story,” I told him. “Andrea will birth her placenta, but until she does, do not leave her alone.” The bleeding stopped. The fundus was firm. The top of the uterus was below Andrea’s belly button. The baby was nursing. The contractions were strong. Everyone felt calmer. It was 10:29 am when Colin told me a little more cord was coming out. In my cottage in the woods, a thousand miles away, I could see the placenta sitting right at the portal door in my mind’s eye. I explained that the placenta was right there and how Colin could bring it down and out with his hand guarding the lower belly while using the strength of his wrist and not his elbow. I assured them everything was perfect and to let the placenta drop out. Andrea asked what they should do with Lucille’s umbilical cord. I said, “We can talk about that soon. First, let’s get the placenta out. We need a placenta first.”
Colin told me Lucille was pink and moving, and with enthusiasm he said, “She has some hair!”
The call dropped. It was 10:32 am. I waited. Just as I had been doing all night, I waited again. I went on my knees. “Peace to Andrea. Peace to Colin. Peace to Lucille,” I prayed. Over and over I prayed because it was all I could do. By 11:30 am, I sent an e-mail. I did not know when they would get my e-mails, but I was comforted to at least send them. I assumed they had either gotten the placenta out and stabilized or had gone in for help. I quieted my mind and held sacred space with images of them happy, calm, comfortable, cozy in their own bed, falling in love with their new baby. What else could I do?
Colin phoned at 3:17 pm. “The placenta still hasn’t dropped,” he told me. I could hardly believe my ears. I longed to see and hear what he could see and hear. He told me the baby was breathing right away and that they had been lying together as a family while Andrea tried to expel her placenta. He told me that around one o’clock they tied and cut the cord together leaving a two inch length on baby’s side. He told me that Andrea wanted to wash off some of the blood and was in the shower and had been lying on her right side for the last hour. He told me the baby had been nursing but that right now he was holding her and that Andrea was still having contractions. I could hear the change in this man’s voice. A father had also been born. I urged Colin to give Andrea a piece of the cord to chew on to bring the placenta down and out and then to put a piece of the placenta under Andrea’s tongue. I could hear the baby cooing in the background. I heard Andrea say, “I breathed the head out.” I wondered how Andrea was doing. I wondered if she had a tear. I wondered if her body had absorbed blood allowing her to remain conscious with an entrapped placenta. I tried to think of when I had seen a trailing cord with placenta still in and a mother still oriented. I recalled seeing dangling cords for many hours with twins born on separate days. I recalled watching the cows in the pasture grazing while their cord dragged in the dirt after birth. I knew the placenta was sitting at her yoni and I knew I could get it out if I were there. I knew Colin could, too. “You can do it, Colin. Bring the placenta down and out.” Off he went and I was left alone again to wait.
I heard nothing as night settled around Rose Cottage, my little hermitage in the woods. The rains had stopped. I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t stay awake. I lit candles, creating more sacred space and sacred energy. I felt confident by this time that Colin was either successful or they had gone in to a nearby clinic where they had planned to birth their baby. I wondered about a tear and who might assess for a possible repair. Nothing was more important than getting the placenta out. I knew it was not attached but I didn’t know if it was out. I was so happy that they had been bonding as a family in peace and calm. I was aware that the fear in the culture and the father’s history that said women bleed and die or need emergency help in childbirth was affecting what would have been a straightforward birth of both baby and placenta. Being aware did not help me. I fell asleep at 8 pm after being awake for 36 hours murmuring in a half conscious state, “Try the toilet…try the toilet.”
I slept for 11 hours. It was December 6 and the Feast of St. Nicholas. As 8 am approached, I wrote an e-mail sending my peace and blessings as baby would soon be one day Earth-side. At 10:00 am, I received an e-mail from Andrea. My heart leaped and I rejoiced that she was both well and writing me in that straightforward way that I had fallen in love with from our first communications. She wrote me that when she got up after our last call, she passed out. Colin was really scared and they went to the clinic. She wrote that, in fact, there was no big problem with the placenta and the doctor managed to get it out easily. She wrote that they were all bonding and that she couldn’t have done it without me and that they would sleep now. I read the e-mail over and over. I drank in every word. I wrote her back immediately and told her how brave and strong she was and what a beautiful mother she was and I thanked her for writing me and I blessed her rest. I was glad she was resting, but I longed to hear her voice.
At one o’clock Andrea called me. Her voice was like a gift from heaven. “I’m back home! We stayed the night at the clinic. The doctor said the placenta was detached. She said I had a third-degree tear. The baby weighed 8 lb 14 oz.” She began to review the birth again and I listened with tears in my eyes and emotion in my heart. “I breathed the head out like we talked about but it was just hanging out and I thought, ‘I’ve got to get the baby out!’ Colin and I were thinking, ‘We should do something. What are we going to do—let her fall out in the toilet?’ I was sitting backwards on the toilet. I hopped backward onto the pad and pushed.”
We talked about how the tear may have happened then or worsened then. “Sister, after seeing how it is in the clinic, there is no way I could have pulled it off. I needed the warm water of the shower and their shower is cold. I needed to move and I was put on my back on a hard surface with my feet up. I needed Colin pressing on my back. I needed you breathing with me. I would have had no support. It was hard enough with comfort, support and being able to move to manage the pain.”
I let her words sink into my soul and I promised myself to write her story.
“It was a pretty powerful bonding experience for us to be so real in the moment. Colin catching, cutting the cord, managing it together—it was all very healing. In labor I thought, ‘I cannot get in a car. I will start screaming. That will be bad.’ I am happy. It was peaceful, comfortable. We all slept together. We nursed and slept and lay there. Peace.”
She continued with her story. “We went into the clinic around 4 pm. We arrived in an ambulance, but it is not an ambulance ride like in the States. It is simple. We called the doctor, so someone would be there because otherwise they are not. The doctor said, ‘I knew you weren’t going to call me. What you did was risky and you got lucky.’ I was taken to the surgical room and the doctor said she was putting me out and might have to take my uterus. I told her she was not going to do that. When I awoke, she said the placenta was right there.”
Andrea’s mind meandered back to the labor and she wondered aloud, “There was a point where I thought, ‘Why did I not get pain meds? This really hurts!’ and then I thought, ‘Nature is going to have to run its course and nature is on my side.’ The pushing was amazing. I was not trying to push, but I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t control it. I am proud of myself. I am so thankful. All the women around here feel that they must birth in the clinic, but then they feel so traumatized. For me, it ended up being a very natural moment-to-moment decision and non-logical. We had one plan, but it changed because of nature. There was so much fluid and blood. You have to just go with it. I was crawling through it all, but so what? Nature is stronger.”
I asked Andrea how I was helpful. “Two things,” she said. “The moment-to-moment breathing and the feeling of peace throughout the labor assured us that everything was progressing well and normal; one moment of normal going into the next…the whole little team. Colin really got into it. It is a recent thing for a husband to be involved in female bodily functions. It was very bonding.”
Andrea came back to the present. “Now we have a baby. What we do now is feed her, enjoy her and hang out. I just wanted to do it without a big fuss.”
There it was again. That steady, matter-of-fact voice of a woman I had never met in person but became willing to cross borders to midwife in birth. Now I know why. I have a new birth hero, and her name is Andrea.
Sister MorningStar has dedicated a lifetime to the preservation of instinctual birth. She birthed her own daughters at home and has helped thousands of other women find empowerment through instinctual birth. She is the founder of a spiritual retreat center and author of books related to instinctual and spiritual living. She lives as a Cherokee hermitess and Catholic mystic in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. sistermorningstar.com.
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