Mirai’s Birth Story
By Miwa Hiroe
There are many times when a practical state of mind dullened the thrill of anticipation, but the last stage of pregnancy was like medicine for complacency. All that magic of waiting for a birthday that had become crusty and discardable was brilliantly revived in the weeks before Mirai’s birth. I was ripe with my second child, six years after the birth of my first. I had, indeed, some insight as to what to expect, but the memory was filtered through time, perhaps romanticizing the laborious occasion to some degree. Did I remember pain? As a concept yes, though my body had all but forgotten it.
This second birth was preceded with an additional anticipatory factor because I now live in a rather isolated rural community, with no hospital, muchless a midwife. I scanned the birthing options with dismay within an hour of learning I was pregnant. My first child had been a home birth but it had been attended by a well seasoned birth guru and there was a hospital around the corner if anything had gone awry. The idea that I might have to lower my expectations and admit myself to an unfamiliar environment for the big day was highly disappointing.
It wasn’t until I told the news to my sister, Kazuko, that I seriously considered an alternative birth plan. Though there were some serious factors to examine, I preferred the alternative immediately and decided to have an unassisted home birth, for which I hoped Kaz could be present, though she lives an 8 hour drive away.
The day before Mirai’s birthday was warm and resplendent with autumn’s fiery colours. I spent most of the day resting in the sun on a hammock, still full with Thanksgiving dinner from the night before (an occasion I had used to coax Kaz to town early with promises of a delectable feast) I wasn’t yet in labour but I could feel it coming, like hearing the rumbling swell of the ocean before it crashes onto the shore. That night I sent my older daughter, Isis, up to her grandparents’ for a sleepover and had a quiet dinner with my partner, Tom.
It was going to be Tom’s second birthing event, the first being his own grand entrance to the world, and he had little exposure to babies in general. I wanted to share the experience with him and communicate everything as it happened, but sometime during a game of backgammon the sensations beckoned me inward. For a few hours Tom accommodated me with massages and presence but after hearing an ouchy moan slip out he called Kaz for backup.
I admit that I lay there trying to remind myself why I had chosen a natural birth process, though each possible response veered away as the contractions plowed into my train of thought like an aggressive driver. Eventually I stopped trying to think. When Kaz arrived I asked if I could go in the birthing pool. She was reluctant, because it looked like I was still in the early stages of labour, but I played the ‘special sister treatment’ card and she set it up, telling me I could soak for an hour, but if the labour slowed down after that then I’d have to get out again. I climbed in, determined not to get out until the baby was born.
While the labour intensified, the weightlessness of being in water made focusing on my present tasks more manageable. I was able to drift into the experience of riding each wave of contraction, treading water and resting between, facing the next one head on with a deep breath and staying afloat. Whenever Fear began to stir I’d soothe it back into submission with the experienced advice I’d overheard Gloria Lemay give to her doula class, “If the mother says the baby is stuck, it means she’s taking the time to stretch and her perineum will stay intact. If she becomes angry, it means she still has a lot of energy. If she says she can’t do it anymore, get ready to catch a baby.”
By the time my hour of soaking was up, my breathing had changed, notifying Kaz that she could heat up some more water for the tub, I would be staying in it. Tom was called back to rally at my side, presumably summoned by that deep, guttural sound that only a birthing mother can make. I used Tom to brace myself, and tried to think words of encouragement like, “It’s only pain,” although eventually it sounded more like, “What the hell, I can’t change my mind now anyway.” Once the feet have left the ground, there’s not much choice but to continue jumping.
Pretty soon Kaz was asking Tom if he’d like to catch the baby, but I had a stronghold on his arms and no intention of letting go. So she suggested I change positions and catch the baby myself, and the next thing I knew she was stating the miraculously impossible… and wholly inevitable, “just one more…” Then, with some help, I was scooping Mirai out of the water, in awe and triumph. It was something like “Wow” and “Ta-Daa” but bigger and better.
The baby wasn’t yet breathing, but her cord was still pumping strongly. We laid her on my chest and gave her a vigorous rub and before long, just like magic, she was inhaling her first breath.