I Began Banging On The Headboard Of My Bed
This week’s birth story comes from one of our very own Instructors here at TCBS. Elana Jefferson-Tatum teaches The Calm Birth Method across Raleigh, North Carolina USA – Lunar Flow
Thank you for sharing the amazing birth story of the gorgeous Imani Ife!
“My precious Imani Ife made her fashionable debut on Friday, May 6, 2022, just in time for Mother’s Day. But her birth story does not start the night before or even the day she was born. It starts the weeks and days before that. We had had several false alarms: once at 37 weeks when she’d dropped so low in my pelvis, I became concerned she’d come before the 37/38 week mark, and then the second time, the week before her birth, when we’d tried several natural induction methods, but to no avail. I’d became frustrated, physically and mentally exhausted as week 40 turned into week 41. I played the Fear Release MP3 and the Powerball MP3 several times in those weeks, and the Calm Birth breathing technique became my bridge to calm in the midst of the ups and downs of those last days and weeks. The midwives had spent all Sunday before her birth giving me herbal remedies, and monitoring baby and I closely, but by day’s end it was clear that I was not going into labor and that she was not ready. I cried that night from exhaustion and the next morning from the sheer feeling of being overwhelmed as well. Even though I’d appreciated the care of my midwives that weekend, I began to realize that this was not quite how I wanted to bring my precious joy into the world. I knew I wanted a home birth but not at the expense of having the intimate experience with just my husband and I in early labor that we had both spent weeks and months visualizing. Having the midwives there during the attempted natural induction just changed everything. I could not get into my birthing zone. I could not fully hear my own voice and what I wanted. So, after the natural induction protocol my midwives prescribed hadn’t worked at 41+ weeks, I settled into a state of acceptance. I had reminded my clients so many times of a central hypnobirthing mantra, “Accept, Release, Let go,” and it was on my bedroom wall, but now I had to embody it for myself. So, though a second round of natural induction was suggested the following Friday, we decided it wasn’t right for us. Also due to my extensive history of past sexual abuse, we decided against many of the other natural induction methods (namely, nipple stimulation, pumping, and sexual intercourse) that though effective would only further traumatize my body and destabilize my body-mind connection during this critical pre-birthing process.
So, we released to the present, and enjoyed our last days. In those final days, I home-schooled my two older children, went berry picking, got a prenatal massage, and went on a nice evening date at a local restaurant and brewery with my loving husband of almost nine years.
As a devotee of an African ancestral tradition, I also reached out to my shrine community in Porto Novo, Benin (West Africa) that Wednesday prior and by Thursday they’d done several prayers and offerings to all of our divinities on our behalf. So, that Thursday, I woke up feeling a bit more ready than the days before, and I’d noticed my waves had picked up quite a bit. I just allowed the day to flow; I hadn’t made any plans that day. I decided to do some home-schooling with my boys in the morning. We sang some songs as we customarily do and read, Welcome Home, a book by Alisha Bourke that describes in child-friendly language what to expect at a home birth. Then, since my husband was home for paternity leave, we split up doing some reading and math practice with the boys. I worked with our oldest who was 6-years old, and my husband worked with our 3-year old, who was just starting to learn to read. Then, as always, we took the boys outside for some free play time, and since I felt up to it, we took a quick walk to our mailbox. So, basically, our day proceeded on as normal. And, now thinking back on it, these last simple moments as a family of four were beyond magical.
That night, we put the boys to bed, and settled in to watch a movie, Needle in a Timestack, an awe-inspiring, futurist love story about a black man who falls deeply in love with a black woman whose life-line is changed so their love story never happens and yet they still find their way back to each other. In the midst of this movie, I found myself asking my husband to pause the movie so I could concentrate on my waves from time to time, but we kept watching. And, in many ways, it was perfect for that moment as my husband and I reflected on our own love and how it was changing and growing and yet like a circle continuous.
My waves were coming more strongly by the conclusion of the movie, but I knew if it was in fact “the night” then we’d need rest, so I did my best to do so. As I slept, or more precisely tried to sleep, the waves kept coming on stronger and stronger. It felt like I was a canoe being pushed by ocean waves in the darkness, and it was as if the darkness of the night actually beckoned each wave. In many ways, this is actually true since we know that melatonin (the night-time, or in other words, sleeping hormone) works in collaboration with oxytocin (one of the primary labor hormones) to stimulate the surges/waves of labor. But, when I could no longer lie there and rest or, rather, simply float atop the waves, at about 2am, I awoke my husband, and he began preparing our space. He lit the candles we had all over the room and throughout the bathroom. I had specifically chosen Lavender Crush by Frères Branchiax, a company that’s the brainchild of three brilliant black boys. The scent of lavender with hints of sandalwood, cedar, and nutmeg helped me to feel grounded and held in the space. He put on my birthing playlist, a selection of songs, or better yet, affirmations set to music by a group called Beautiful Chorus. And he ran my bath water. Finally, he called the midwives. I was definitely in active labor this time. I lit the candles at our altar and said a prayer.
Initially, I spent some time on my birthing ball, lying across it with my body limp allowing the waves to roll through me and then sitting atop it slowly gyrating my hips to open my pelvis. But, the waters beckoned me. I knew I needed the space of comfort that had been there for me during my pregnancy (when I’d listen to my hypnobirthing MP3s in the solitude of the warm water while gently stroking my belly). So, covered in a bathing suit top, I submerged myself in the warm waters of my tub. At my request, my husband put on the African Jade MP3 track. I knew the first thing that I needed was to feel safe and affirmed as a Black birthing woman. So, I listened and lied there (shifting as needed) in the warm waters with candlelight glistening around me. As the waves became stronger, I felt myself feel afraid and doubtful. I had never done this before this way. (My other births had been in a hospital, and I had always gotten an epidural eventually). So, I silently read the affirmations that were strung by my bathtub: “I am prepared to meet whatever turns my birthing takes,” “My surges are not stronger than me because they are me.” I told my husband of my fears, and he quietly held my hand and stroked my face, gently kissing my forehead. He put on the Fear Release MP3 for me, and I focused on just breathing. At this point, I found that my breath was my best friend. I breathed through each wave, each surge, and then focused on completely relaxing in-between. This sustained me for a while but once the waves became an overlapping storm, I found myself thrashing both internally and physically. I began to bang on the side of the tub. This helped me to redirect the strong surges that were rolling through my body and refocus my mind. Then, eventually I decided to get out of the tub to try a different position. The water was now making me feel like I was still floating, and I needed to feel more grounded, more rooted, but when I got out of the tub and tried to labor on the toilet I felt even more overwhelmed with the surges so I got back in again. The warm water was definitely helping me handle these internal waves, and yet, as soon as I got back in the water, I knew I needed to get back out again. I was completely restless. I got out of the tub but this time I could not walk. I laid on the floor of the bathroom as another crashing wave rolled through me. With the help of my husband and the midwives, too, by this point, I slowly pulled myself back into the bedroom, but another wave came, and I had to remain lying on the floor by my bed for some time. But I knew I wanted to be in the comfort of my bed so with all the energy I could muster and with the support of my husband and my midwives, I heaved myself onto the bed. The waves were coming like an unrelenting storm by this point and so I began banging on the headboard of my bed, as my husband stood beside me encouraging me on. I was going through transition, but I didn’t know it yet. I began crying, fearful that I couldn’t do this, that I couldn’t make it. I wanted to go to the hospital. I wanted out. I wanted the waves to stop. The midwives offered to check my cervix and I consented. I was 8 centimeters. Once I heard that I knew, I understood. I knew that I was close, and that I would soon see my precious baby. And so, I mustered all of my strength and released to the waves. I could not stop them. I could not control them. I could not do anything but just accept what was in that moment. I began to feel the urge to bear down, and I followed the instincts of my body, but I was lying on my side and I knew I could not birth in that position. I knew I needed to get up and move. So, still on my bed, I hoisted myself up on to all fours. Another big urge to bear down came and her head popped out. She was almost here. But I was tired, so tired. I waited for what seemed like forever for the next surge to come and when it finally did, she slid out behind me. (It was 5:26 am in the morning.) She cried and I cried. We had done it.
The midwives helped me to reposition myself and lie down on the bed with baby Imani Ife on my chest, but the placenta had not yet been birthed. I was tired and weak, but the midwives firmly urged me on. A big clot of blood came out, and I thought that it was the placenta but it wasn’t. Completely exhausted and out of it, I waited for the next surge. Finally, it emerged but with it I could feel a flood of blood. I was scared but I held on to my baby and trusted my team to care for me. The midwives quickly gave me two shots of Pitocin and were luckily able to manage the bleeding. So, we all relaxed and began to relish in the beauty of the moment. Then, there was so much clean up. And yet, my midwives lovingly wiped both baby and I, and changed the bedding to get us settled. Once clean and comfortable, I tried to breastfeed but honestly it was a struggle at first. Between laboring and the blood loss, I was exhausted, so I just focused on skin-to-skin and on the miracle of what I had just experienced. My two younger kids and my mother then came into the room to greet our newest family member. There was so much joy and joyous laughter. While everyone was coddling our precious Imani Ife, I had some food to regain my strength. I then tried again at latching her and it was a success. We’d still have a long road ahead (since breastfeeding, like life, is always a journey) but I knew that we’d be just fine.
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