Arrow and Her Birth Story: The Farm

At 11:00 pm on Sunday May 27th, I was just trying to go to sleep.

I had been having contractions for days (since early Friday morning) and though they had been progressing steadily through Sunday night, I was hesitant to ever assume they were more than pre-labor--for fear that what was coming would be so much more. So even though I squirmed through a light dinner for feeling this child's head trying wriggle out of me, I tried to carry on like usual until bed. I believed I could get my contractions to relax once I laid down, I assumed I could make them back off until I was rested and for ready for another day.

But while I had hoped that was how it would play did not.

Erik was trying to watch a movie in the other room and as I lay there in bed thinking of the potentially long and lonely night ahead (having contractions every 7 minutes while trying to let Erik get some very much needed rest) I started to get frustrated and even scared. I was mildly worried of the scenario in which I began labor in the middle of the night and it carried over into days. What if it zapped me of my strength to do this? And what if I then needed intervention, which The Farm couldn't provide? That would be out-the-window with my birth plan.

I called Erik so we could talk about it together, and try to calm down. He lay next to me while I started to cry with fretfulness. He reviewed in a book he had that outlined what to expect in pre-labor, early labor, active labor, etc. But we weren't getting any indication that I was farther than pre-labor (my contractions were a bit closer together, but not really more intense--lasting maybe 30 seconds or so). In a huff of worry and anticipation I took myself to the bathroom, and suddenly I had a bit of "bloody show"--one of the indicators that something is really starting to happen. I emerged triumphant, eager and relieved that now it was time for us to make a move. We called a good friend, the midwife, and my mom in Kansas to let her know she might want to start heading down in the morning. 

When you go to The Farm for a birth, the plan is that you will stay in one of the birth cabins on the property for up to seven days. These are essentially just regular houses that are also outfitted with the things needed for a birth. But it's the couple's responsibility to bring everything you might need for your stay (clothes, food, extras like music speakers, hiking shoes, extra pillows). So we had to load up before we could head out. Erik packed the truck while I readied myself and by midnight we set off into the night. The Farm is about an hour and a half from East Nashville. A lot of people might think riding in the car during any kind of active labor would be difficult, but for my circumstances, I actually enjoyed it. I think I was one part relieved--to be traveling officially to the place where we needed to be to have our daughter was a huge comfort to me. I was also invigorated, this might sound silly but I actually love to go on rides, especially night rides. To jump in the truck and set off into the rural Tennessee countryside with my husband at the helm was so exciting. The evening was perfect, clear skies and very starry, the night before a full moon. We passed over valleys with low hanging fog and listened to classical music the whole way. I felt so at peace. At first my contractions backed off quite a bit in the car, but returned with some regularity as we drove on. As my they intensified I needed a new word to focus my thoughts when the rushes came. Whatever abstract concept of "let go or relax" I had been trying wasn't enough. Based on a story from Ina May's Guide to Childbirth I tried the word "surrender." To my surprise it helped immensely, I was able to more potently focus my energies to relax while saying it in my mind. 

We pulled into our house's drive and unloaded. Once unpacked a bit and settled, I texted Deborah (my main midwife) and she came over (Deb lives on The Farm and is only a 5 minute drive away.) She checked me and found I was 3 or 4cm dilated. Which, while significant enough to justify me having come down to The Farm, it didn't necessarily mean anything big was going to happen that night (some women dilate to 3cm and stay there for days I'm told). So we said we'd be comfortable on our own, hoping we could still get some sleep that night. She left and we tried to get comfortable. Just before turning out the light Erik said, "Alright little baby, let's get 8 hours of rest and then we'll back on this in the morning." We cuddled up together in the dark and within a few minutes I began to have a contraction, breathing through it we came to an arc at which point I felt....the slightest "pop". 

My eyes bulged, I sat upright. "Are you alright? Was that a bad one?" Erik exclaimed. "No! My water--my water just broke!" I said, completely astonished. I literally started to laugh. I couldn't believe it. I didn't even know if my water would break as so many women report theirs does not. I laughed again and exclaimed, Wow I guess this is it. I felt this burst of energy and alertness.

{For me, my water breaking wasn't a huge rush of liquid. The tiny pop sound was almost imperceptible--except I'd heard stories of other women describing their water breaking the same way, so I knew not to ignore it. When I stood up I had to wait a moment before I felt any liquid at all run down my leg, but still it was enough to know that something was happening.}

We phoned the midwife back at 2:50am, she arrived and sat with me for a few minutes, by now it seemed like my contractions were coming every couple of minutes. She didn't say anything just sat with me in a calm way. I paced the floor. I was comfortable standing, and sitting on the toilet (I think because it takes the pressure off of your center while still getting to relax a little by sitting down). Soon the tub that Deborah and Erik had set up for me in the living room was ready. It was a relief to be in the warm water, and as the tub is inflated it is soft on every side which was such a welcome comfort. But in the tub is where my contractions became overpoweringly strong. I had to focus with all my might to relax through them and soon my whole body quaked with their intensity. Around this time something occurred to me that I hadn't thought kiss Erik. I had read about this strategy from other women's birth stories at The Farm and I knew the midwives were major proponents of it as a natural pain reliever but it just didn't seem like something that would be for me. But here I was in these mouth-enveloping kisses, and it worked! It was the only thing powerful enough to distract me from the contractions and allow me to continue to relax through them.

Laboring in the tub as I was, the contractions were so strong, I had no idea what time it was or what amount of time had elapsed but I was nervous about how long it could go on like this. Trying not to think of it-- but inevitably thinking of it, I started to worry, but then of course I tried to tell myself not to worry because it would all happen as it was intended to happen. And right here in this moment, I recognized my brain doing all the talking, and I was totally distracted from my body. I remembered the advice of a friend who had told me "Trust your body, and don't let your mind get in the way", I knew in this moment, it was what she had meant and I tried to shut off my mind. Within moments, my body said loudly: stand up. I was surprised as I couldn't imagine things being more comfortable anywhere but the tub, but I silenced my mind again. And rose up out of the water. I made my way to the bathroom to rest on the toilet. Within a few minutes I felt a vague but then undeniable urge to push, I called for Deborah to check me, she said I was close but not quite there yet. "What do I do?" I asked her. "I don't think I can NOT push." "Kiss Erik." she advised. And we did. More desperately than before, my body shivering, trying not to push. Once the urge came, it only got stronger and stronger. 

Soon the second midwife was phoned, and Deborah told me that she thought if I could walk upstairs, I would be most comfortable on the bed to push this child out. I walked upstairs and we settled Erik behind me on the bed so that I rested against him to push. Another contraction, more mouth enveloping kisses. Then Pamela arrived, and not long after that at all, Deborah checked me again. And in the quietest, calmest voice she said: "All systems are go."

I realized that I actually didn't know how to do what was coming next. I hadn't read that far (ha!) and told the midwives such. They instructed me how to harness the power of the contraction, when to hold my breath, and feel the urge to push, and then to PUSH. After this, labor seemed to quiet down a lot, the contractions abated a bit and I rested with my eyes closed against Erik for what felt like minutes. It took me several contractions to actually get the hang of pushing, I would try but lose the breath I was holding. Finally on maybe the third contraction, I had it. I held my breath and pushed with all my might, soon this little girl's head crowned, in another contraction her head was out. At which point the midwives advised me to pause (I would find out later little Arrow had the cord wrapped around her neck twice, and her body once). Then they said I could continue, and with another couple of pushes she was completely here. It was 6:21 am when they laid her on my stomach and she raised her head to look at us. I pushed for maybe 30/45 minutes. There's no denying, it was a super fast birth. Some have told me that in the future, we may not make it where we're going as births tend to become much faster once you've done it once.

One of the biggest differences of our birth from what I was expecting was how quiet the whole thing was. The midwives barely spoke, they keep quiet and sit back. They never wanted to tell me how far I was measuring because they don't want you associating a number with the amount of work you've put in. (i.e. just because it's taken several hours to get to 4 or 5 cm doesn't mean it will take the same amount of time to completely dilate). That way you're forced to stay focused, listen to your body, and not become distracted by time or a sense of progress or a lack there of. (The midwives would tell you how far along you were if you really wanted to know)



Melissa Fuller