Apparently it’s possible to orgasm during labour.
Call me pragmatic, but my labour focus second time around was survival – mental and physical.
Spending most of the pregnancy feeling mentally unbalanced (a few sandwiches short of a picnic), and like I was on the hormone bus with a madman at the wheel (somewhat like the movie, Speed). My expectations were set fairly low, far below orgasmic, anyway!
Nevertheless, at 37 weeks pregnant, Robert and I attended the CalmBirth course. We were the furthest along at the weekend course. Had I left my run too late? Was it possible to train my mind and uterus in three weeks – or less?
We spent the weekend, along with several other couples, looking at the uterus – a model with life-sized baby doll head – and marveled at its workings. I couldn’t believe for nearly 40 years now, I’d been carrying around this uterus and never stopped to marvel at it. No one ever tells you about all the wonderful things it can do. It’s only really talked about when something goes wrong. I’ve heard other mothers say their gynecologist called their uterus ‘incompetent’, ‘inefficient’, ‘inadequate’ among other things.
Why don’t they ever say at your ultrasound, “Congratulations, you do have a sensational uterus!”?
Anyway, we came home from the course with a bucket load of knowledge and some wonderful meditations to help prepare us for the birth. Even more importantly, we came home with a new, simple birth plan: no matter what happens, stay calm. (Note: For my first labour, I turned up at the Birth Centre with a downloaded internet birth plan – double spaced, double sided – nothing short of laughable).
By the time my waters broke at lunchtime on a Sunday afternoon, I was more than ready to peacefully ‘ride the waves’ (aka contractions) and trust that – provided I remained as calm as possible – the uterus would naturally open like the flower I’d visualized for the past 21 days. I understood all the theory and it all made complete sense. Now was just a matter of putting it into practice.
Things didn’t really start kicking in until midnight, so, Robert and I had plenty of opportunity to ‘ride the waves’ and practice our new-found calm. As things became really intense, two things got me though more than anything else: the focused breathing and counting slowly with each contraction; and visualising my baby as a little mermaid getting closer to the shore (and me) with every contraction.
Then of course, there was the incredible support of my partner and my sister and the devoted midwife. They all knew what I wanted; a calm birth and a healthy baby, and did what they could to help me get there. At one stage I entered a big, warm bath and felt instantly transported to another place. It took me back to Lily’s birth and I connected for just a moment with the joy and relief that came when she finally slipped beautifully from my body.
The water had kept me buoyant and slowed and eased the contractions. Though it wasn’t until this moment – in full-on labour for the second time – that I realised what a difference the water had made. The midwife was urging me to get out of the bath in order to speed things up a bit. This hospital didn’t allow water births so my time in the water here was only a temporary reprieve. But getting out was like taking a big whiff in a handmade chocolate shop walking straight out again.
Each time I lifted my body out of the bath, the weight of me was all too much and the reality of labour pains shot through me like a bolt of lightening.
I finally left the water and moved to the bed. It was all too real and hit me like a tonne of bricks. No longer riding peaceful waves, I was being dumped and tossed and feared drowning in pain. On the bed, facing forward, pushing, felt completely foreign. I longed for the bath and was heating up like a beast lashing in chains. I could feel my whole body on fire (from the inside out), and I wanted nothing more than to end it all. It was too much!
Then came a break in the madness with a change of position and more words of love from my supporters. They pulled me back in from the darkness and believed I could do what needed to be done. I stepped out of the fear for just a moment and used all the love and strength around me to re-focus. I was back. Just minutes later, when I reached down and felt my baby girl’s warm head emerging from me, I knew all would be OK. She was here, and I wanted more than anything in the world, to meet her.
“She’s blinking,” said the midwife. “And she’s frowning too, just like you.”
We laughed, we cried and with almost no effort she fully arrived; her long, slender body sliding onto the bed before us. The relief, oh the relief. So grateful, so thankful! It’s all over...and she’s here!
Just minutes after her birth she lay on my tummy and crawled her way up, like a newborn pup, found her way to the nipple and suckled. We lay together and connected in the deepest, most perfect way.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem