the water birth of Florence
The day began like any other overdue day. No signs of labor, no “feeling” in the air, just sunshine and blue skies with a crisp breeze. My mum and I went for a walk after I took my first dose of the German cocktail:
- 2 tbsp almond butter
- 2 tbsp castor oil
- blended in 200-300ml water
- 200ml apricot juice
- 5 drops organic lemon verbena essential oil
Blend it all up, until it’s frothy and well mixed. The trick is to take the lemon verbena in a shot glass mixed with a bit of the cocktail. Otherwise you will have the potent lemon verbena essence throughout the whole drink, and that’s nasty.
You MUST ask your midwife before taking this cocktail, and make sure you have a reputable source for the essential oil.
I took this at 9:30AM and I was very disappointed that nothing happened immediately after taking it. But I’m an impatient one. I expected magic, and nothing happened!
We walked up a few hills, I jumped off sidewalks and we stopped in at a local gardening store, browsing through seeds and plants.
We headed home. I took my second dose of the labor cocktail at 2:30pm, and my pregnant friends, Holly and Megan came over to chat and hopefully witness the cocktail take effect. Little did they know…
I felt fine. No symptoms whatsoever of the cocktail—no cramping, bowel movements, any reactions at all. It was great! Holly suggested I get up and dance, so I cranked some Mariah Carey and danced, did jumping jacks and laughed myself silly. I felt like I was going to break the house! I was swollen with water that day, but didn’t notice it until after the birth. I look at pictures and think, how did I get so big?! Perhaps it was a sign of things to come.
After the dance party, I sat down and we talked about our pregnancies. It felt good to be surrounded by other pregnant mums. And then, maybe 45 minutes after the dancing ended, I felt a gush of liquid, and said, “I peed myself!” I knew full well that it wasn’t pee, but it just seemed like the appropriate thing to say. Holly jumped up and burst into tears. I started to shake with adrenaline, but immediately went into the kitchen and started cleaning it. I knew that labor was starting, but was shocked that it started with my water breaking. I gushed again a few moments later. It was 5:40pm. I felt pain in my lower back, like period cramps, but no contractions. I called my doula, Michelle, and was just about to wrap up the conversation (which went something like: oh well call me in a few hours when things pick up). I got my first contraction at 5:50pm and it was pretty intense for a first contraction. I also called my midwife, incredible birth photographer, Morag and had Holly call my husband and Megan call my mum, who was lost somewhere in the city, luckily not very far away!
My husband got home at 6:30pm, and I had already had 11 contractions, lasting 45-60 seconds long, coming every 3-4 minutes. Things were happening fast. It took me by surprise. I got in the shower, and felt pretty good. I could still cope quite well, but definitely couldn’t keep my mind off of labor. I was a bit snarly, and feeling hungry, but didn’t have a clue what I should eat. I had a few sips of a protein shake, knowing full well I should eat more.
By 7:00pm I was having more trouble concentrating, and twenty minutes later I couldn’t think of anything else. My doula arrived, and told me to accept the contractions, and stop fighting them. She reminded me baby girl was working with me and everything was safe and normal. It helped immensely, but I also knew what that meant, being a doula myself: this was the point of no return. I got into the bath for a little while, but felt the need to get out. I threw up whatever I had eaten in the past 5 hours. I also knew what this meant: transition…
Time was flying by. I was shocked that about 4 hours had passed and we were heading to the hospital. It felt like an hour. I really didn’t want to go before I had to, but Michelle said it was a very busy night (on a full moon) and we wanted a great room, so I caved in. The car ride was fine. Yes, fine! I was expecting much worse, but I was just in a daze as we passed the lights of the city. It was 10:30pm when we arrived at the hospital. I was” that” labouring woman trying to make it through the labor and delivery doors, having to pause and moan and ride out the contractions.
I was checked shortly after and told I was at 6cm. I was a little miffed that I wasn’t farther along, but everyone encouraged me greatly saying it was a very, very good place to be. Looking back, I have to laugh at myself for being so impatient. Again.
I walked to the elevators, still feeling like I could handle it all. Again, I was very surprised. This was happening, I was in active labor…and I was doing it!
We got to the room, which was the nicest one available on the floor. Our midwife, Lena gave a cheer as we were assigned a large renovated room at the end of the hall. It was quiet, private and had a beautiful large tub. I got in and felt comforted by the warmth and the weightlessness, however I had the strong urge to push wash over me with each contraction. No longer was I happily moaning through the contractions, but singing my heart out to keep from pushing. Michelle suggested it, and it did work, although it was pretty terrible. I had to fight my body’s natural urge to push with each contraction. The midwife checked me, and I was at 7cm. She reminded me I really could not push, to avoid swelling. I knew it was important not to do so, but was angry that something was out of sync. Baby girl was trying to push her way through, but I wasn’t quite ready. I broke down a few times, saying it was really hard, and everyone agreed, it was not an easy thing. But I gathered myself and kept on singing, moving around in the tub, and squeezing one of many hands offered to me as support. I found squatting and hands and knees to be really uncomfortable, because the pressure was immense. I remained reclined in the tub, which is eventually how I pushed her out.
I was checked again shortly after because my singing had turned to pushing noises again. The midwife and doula felt that something had changed. And thank the Lord, it had! I was 9-9.5 cm dilated, a mere hour and a half after getting to the hospital at 6cm.
The midwife told me this time I could push, and she would attempt to push back the lip of the cervix to dilate me to 10cm. It was not comfortable, it was definitely not nice, but it worked like a charm. Her face lit up as she said, “Ok Michaela, you can push now. Let’s have this baby!
I pushed for an hour and a half. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had to battle against my fear and the great responsibility that weighed heavily on my shoulders. It was up to me to get her out. I felt her head partway up the birth canal with my fingers, and was comforted by the fact that she was coming. But as all mothers who have given birth vaginally know, it’s a difficult thing to feel your baby’s head come down and then slowly go back after each contraction. But I kept at it, and began to feel the burning.
Oh the burning…it lasted much longer than expected. I remember thinking, “This is it, you’re doing it. No drugs, no IV, nothing but a few popsicles. You are floating in water, you are free, this is the most beautiful moment of your life!”
Eventually her head began to crown, very slowly. My head was exploding with a brand new sensation that I had no choice but to welcome. Jay and my mum said it was rather excruciating watching her head crown, because it was long and slow. But it sure had it’s advantages, and was exactly what I wanted. They told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head. She was out. I managed to ask, “That was the hardest part, right?”
Everyone agreed, the hardest part was over. The rush of joy I experienced took my breath away. I was going to meet baby girl in mere seconds. Her shoulders slid out like warm honey, and before I knew it, Jay was placing her on my stomach.
I paused in shock, and touched her warm body, covered in thick vernix. She gave a small wail, and then quieted down, peaceful, calm. Her eyes opened. I started to cry and cry, “My baby, my baby, baby girl is here!
Glory filled the room, and I felt the deepest emotions run through me like a river. There is nothing like those first moments. I wish I could bottle it up and drink it everyday. I’m so thankful I have the above shot, because it reminds me it was all worth it. The months of pregnancy that hurt and dragged, and the valleys and mountains that were crossed. It was worth it, it was worth it. I knew at the moment, I would lay my life down for my child. Her breath gave me life and I felt a new filling of the Spirit of God.
After she was born, they drained the tub, and I surprised myself by walking to the bed where I delivered the placenta. I must admit, I felt a bit like superwoman. Florence was able to have skin to skin time with her papa, and to be honest, I was pretty sore and still labouring to get the placenta out. I felt stunned.
I was taken aback by the after pains, and absolutely hated having my uterus massaged to expel any clots. But it cooperated and I didn’t have any heavy bleeding. I had a tiny laceration, no stitches. She weighed 9lbs 3 ounces and was 53 cm long, again in the 99th percentile for length. I was not surprised!
She nursed right away, with no problems. I felt like I was floating into the high heavens. Everything went so smoothly. It truly was a supernatural birth. I felt the strength of all my dear friends and family, with their lit birthing candles and the echoes of their prayers and encouragement. The smooth weight of stones around my neck never ceased to give me strength.
Florence Marigold was born at 1:37am on March 7th, her great grandfather’s birthday on Jay’s mother’s side. It was a little over seven hours from start to finish. I know I was blessed and given two great gifts from the Lord that day: my baby Florence and an empowering, complication free birth.
If you’d like to read an update on Florence’s diagnosis and her beautiful, but short life, follow these links: