A ravishing rendition of her birth story in Luxembourg, by Anna Chieppa from Barcelona…
It is mid-August, 10 pm and Greg and I step out into the street, dragging a little bag. I have thrown in some books, my laptop, pink baby pajamas, organic cotton bodies and my journal.
The starry night is cool and clear. The moon is pale and flat as a coin. At the Maternité Grande-Duchess Charlotte hospital, Sophie the midwife speaks French and we look at her with hope. But after a quick visit she shakes her head and tells me that I am only 3 cm dilated, maybe 4. I cannot hide my disappointment.
“Go have a walk”, she says. “Take the stairs. Come back in two hours”.
We go up to the terrace and watch the silent night, the stars cut in ice, the dark shapes of the cars abandoned in the parking lot. Over the last few days I have been scared, but tonight I feel strong and I trust my body. The contractions are becoming painful and when they surge, I grab Greg’s shoulders and breathe deeply while shutting my eyes. What proved impossible during my first labor, is coming much easier today.
Trust. Breathe. Wait.
Greg and I make a joke and a man appears at a window, hissing at us to be quiet. We leave and go to “climb the stairs” as instructed. We return two hours later. The pain is now sharp and I can’t believe it when Sophie says that I’m now only 5 cm dilated.
Your baby will be here within five to six hours, she says. I feel like swearing. I can not imagine spending another six hours feeling like this. I’m going to ask for an epidural, and sink into the oblivion of anesthesia, like I did with the first baby.
But Sophie knows better. She asks me about my first labor and my ideal birth. I tell her about my wishes to have a home birth that I missed out on the previous time due to my lack of pain management. I tell her about all the reading and meditation I’ve been doing, as well as the hypnosis classes I’ve attended in Barcelona.
She listens without a word and then says: “I have a good CD, do you want to listen to it”?
Before I can even object, she turns off all the lights except a salt lamp casting pink shadows. She leaves with Greg after popping in a CD. I quickly enter a deep state of relaxation. The pain disappears like foam. Waves and waves of pain lift me up and drop me off on the seashore of peace that widens between contractions. I have to surf those waves each time they come, I rise and rise and when the contraction stops I return to water level, floating in a sea of peace. I do it once and then again and again, I lose any sense of time until the pressure makes me so sick that I start to vomit When Sophie enters the room my legs are soaked. My waters have broken and the trance is suddenly over. Sophie bends over me and announces that I am seven cm dilated.
Only seven centimeter! Still three to go! The pain grabs at my throat and I am about to ask for anesthesia. I’ve lost my strength and my trust. But Sophie just smiles again. She is a small woman, with ashy hair and a bony face, pale blue eyes behind the glasses. Her face, I will never forget as I will always remember what she did for me that night.
She turns over and says, with her soft voice and firm smile: “Now you can go to the bathtub”.
There is a round bathtub in the room next to us, with a rope hanging from the ceiling, above the water. Sophie tells me to grab the rope each time a contraction kicks off.
I enter the water. It is warm. I sit down letting the water rise up to my neck. I let the warmth and the pleasure fill me up. It is bliss. I shut my eyes and float in another state of peace. The pain arrives. By now, I can sense it long before it comes. It’s so strong, I cannot cry or move. I pull the rope and wait and the entire time Sophie’s voice whispers in my ear: “Laisse le bébé descendre.” (Let the baby descend).
The pain stops. Again, there is peace… and water. I hear Greg asking something, and then Sophie’s voice: “She’s high on endorphins”.
Time becomes water, and silence. The world is reduced to the warm water that embraces me, to the soaked hair that somebody is brushing, the blue water, the hard bottom of the bathtub, the sound of my breathing broken by the pain, Sophie’s face next to mine and her soft voice, “Laisse le bébé descendre”. Then it comes again, so I grab the rope, my body rises with all its heaviness and there is more whispering, more moaning, my body up and down. Then I leave the rope, go back to the water, breathe. It feels so good to float like this. With each contraction this little girl is coming closer but when will this finish?
A lot of time has passed and my resistance becomes weak. Each time that I now sense a contraction coming, panic fills my throat. I can hardly breathe, my body is stiff from pain. No words come out of my cracked lips.
Suddenly it is cold. A yellow light is covering the tiles of the walls. It is five in the morning and Sophie says. “That’s it, we are there, almost ten cm. Only half an hour more and then your baby will be here.” And then it hits me that there will be no epidural. There is no going back and my body is at its limit. Now what? I turn to Greg, I want to cry, what am am I going to do? Sophie calmly says: “Get up and walk back to the room. Can you do that?”
They drag me outside. “Do you feel like pushing?” she asks. I don’t feel like freaking pushing. I feel like screaming.
I am lying on a bed. For a very long time the pressure stops and I look at myself. At the big mirror attached to the ceiling I see a fat woman. She is naked, with wet hair, black rimmed glasses and a tired man by her side. Outside it’s still dark, and quiet. Then it comes. I hear the woman howl.
I expected to feel more contractions but this new feeling is far more powerful – an intense pressure against my behind, a tension to the point of breaking. I am clinging to Greg’s shirt, wailing.
A doctor rushes to my side.
The pressure stops. Somebody is talking but I do not understand. And then the pressure returns…like a tsunami. I am afraid of pushing, but I have to. I cannot keep this pressure inside. I push and scream and push….and when I feel a burning sensation, a sudden surge of panic hits me. Then I remember they say that when you feel the fire ring, it means the end is in sight. There is no turning back anymore. I have to push now. I gather all my strength and push again, screaming as my pelvis turns into fire and my baby slips out like a bullet. Everything changes suddenly. The pressure is gone and I can only feel a numb pain. They put something long and slippery in my arms and I look down. It’s a wet baby. It is six in the morning and dawn is breaking.
The baby is at my breast but I cannot look at her. I feel nothing. I just want this pain to end.
The first few months after birth is a roller coaster for any mother. The fatigue of labor, sleepless nights and challenges of breastfeeding made me wonder if I really wanted this baby. But this baby ignored my inner voice and kept holding on to me as if I was her only safety, her only love. I started watching her. How she shut her eyes like seashells at night, her trembling lips while sucking, her wrinkled little hands intertwined with mine. Little by little and day by day, my fear of not being capable of loving her crumbled like dried leaves.
For my first labor I really wanted a natural home birth but ended up having a hospital birth with an epidural. For my second I wanted an epidural and ended up with a natural birth.
I am proud of how I managed the pain this time. I am truly happy that I had the chance to experience this intense journey of the women’s innate strength.
If I had a third baby, I would certainly like to practice hypnosis more, as I know it is the way to a more manageable, less painful and more conscious natural birth.
The day after that night, Sophie came to see me. “I wanted to give you the opportunity to experience just how strong you can be” she told me.
Eighteen months have passed since that day. I’d like to tell all women out there that it does not matter how their births turn out in the end. Each of us should look in the mirror and congratulate herself for the mere fact of having gone through this. And then you should congratulate yourself again. And again. We should carry on for a whole day and keep on doing it for years to come.
We all have to treasure the magic experience of birth, the struggle and the fear and the excitement of labor. What an incredible powerful event to witness. The beginning of life. Such a miracle and mystery…
More about Anna Chieppa
Anna Chieppa is a freelance writer who has been living in Luxembourg for two years. She used to live in Barcelona and it took her a year to get over the shock of the weather.
More about Luxmama
As mother of two, Certified International Maternity Institute Baby Planner Consultant and Maternity & Child Sleep Consultant student, Luxmama provides personalised baby planning consultation services (maternity coaching) for future/new parents & parents-to-be – setting them up for success, so they can sail into their new lives with confidence! Also on offer is a variety of social and educational events through the Luxmama Club designed so you can make the most of becoming and being a new parent in the modern world today.