Black Boy Loading: A Birth Story

On November 29th I was officially 41 + 2 days pregnant. Said another way I was 9 days past my due date—much to my chagrin. I was fairly done with the difficult sleep, the slowed movement, and the inability to move from a seated position without rolling on my side and pushing myself up. The anxiety that I would have to be induced if I made it to 42 weeks, a mere 5 days away, was not making the end of this trimester any more comfortable. But per the advice of my family and my doula, René, I was trying not to get too worked up about it and was patiently awaiting the arrival of my first child. Around 4 PM I felt a tightness in my back that would come roughly every ten minutes. The duration was irregular—the spacing of the sensation even more so—and  I decided to not mention anything to my husband until it became more pronounced. About three hours later we decided to take a walk around the complex to see if the sensation picked up or at least stayed consistent. At this point we were both unsure if this was the real thing, but I began to feel tightening not just in my lower back but in my lower abdomen and my pelvic area.

When you’re unsure if you’re real labor or not

            The contractions were coming consistently but in no set frequency. We began timing them around 8:30 to keep an eye on the frequency. We turned on Sunday night football and decided to wait until they became a regular five minutes apart to call our doula and mid wife. As the contractions got more intense, I quickly learned riding them out in all fours was my best bet. My husband would massage my hips as I yoga breathed and ‘ohm-ed’ my way through the discomfort. We went on in this pattern from 9 to 11:30 where my contractions went from 6-10 minutes apart to 2-3 minutes apart. We called René and the midwife on call at the Birth Center of Baton Rouge and let them know things had picked up and they told us to watch them for another 30 minutes to see if they stayed at this frequency, particularly since they weren’t lasting more than 45 seconds.

            After those phone calls I got in my bathtub and labored there for a while. Of all the places I labored until this point, the tub was the only place I could get sufficient rest in between contractions. After a while I decided to move back ‘on land’ as the contractions did space back out…temporarily. Within the hour, things picked back up and I got back in the tub to rest out the next phase of contractions. I couldn’t keep anything down but was trying my best to keep something on my stomach.  Sometime around 1 AM I asked my husband to grab some pickles from the kitchen so I can get some electrolytes to power through the rest of labor—however long it was going to be. Spoiler alert, I never got to eat those pickles.

            Once my husband left the bathroom there was a significant shift in my contractions. I could no longer float or ‘all fours with an ohm’ my way through them. All I felt compelled to do was push. I stood up in the tub, propped my right leg on the edge of it, grabbed the towel rack and pushed. Once this contraction was over, I stepped out of the tub and noticed a significant increase in bloody fluid. It was at the sight of this I realized it was time to go to the birth center. My husband walked back in and I told him to call the midwives because we needed to go. He quickly confirmed with René and Elizabeth—the midwife on call—that we were headed that way. The next 30 minutes were a blur of throwing bags in cars, waking up a sleeping 8-year-old, and hauling ass to the birth center which was 15 minutes away with no traffic. I’m pretty sure we made it in ten minutes.

            We made it to the birth center and were the first ones there. I hopped out of my husband’s truck to continue pushing until someone else arrived. René pulled up about two minutes after us and immediately jumped into birth support mode. She asked me how I was feeling to which I responded with all the grace of a Southern woman in the late stages of labor, “I feel like I have to shit!” René immediately assured me I was doing a great job and that was exactly how I was supposed to feel. A few more pushes passed, and Elizabeth arrived and unlocked the birth center. René informed her what room I wanted and that I was pushing. Once I got through my latest contraction, I made a very wobbly bee line to my desired room while René began running the water in the birthing tub as she knew I desired a water birth. Second spoiler alert, I never got in the tub. Once I made it to the room I grabbed one of the posts on the bed and rode the next pushing contraction. I cannot say I consciously knew these were pushing contractions, I just knew they were a lot more involuntary and a lot more productive feeling than the ones I experienced earlier in the evening. They were strong, intense, and uncontrollable, but felt leagues better than the prior hours of what I now know was transition.

            As I moved from standing to the bed where René had stacked pillows for me to prop myself up on, Elizabeth rolled all her delivery tools into the room. One glance at my rear and she stated very plainly “oh she’s crowning.”

Crowning??!!

It was at this moment that I knew I would not make it to 41 + 3 days pregnant. My husband soon joined us in the room after bringing in all our necessary bags and resumed his position behind me providing counter-pressure to my hips. Within the next five minutes I felt the strongest urge to push. It was in this push that I felt my son’s head present itself at the opening of my vagina and then go back inside. I never wanted to push something out so quick, but Elizabeth calmly told me to slow down my pushing with René reminding me to continue breathing through the contraction. After this push Elizabeth stated that in 1 or 2 more pushes I’ll have my baby. I asked her if I could change positions and she stated she’d help me move into whatever position I wanted. Before I could say anything my husband asked if I wanted to do the Captain Morgan—meaning lifting my right leg up on the bed—to which I nodded. It was in this next push that my son’s head came completely out—as confirmed by my midwife—and one push after that out were his shoulders. I looked down and saw a blur of blood and fluids and a squirming little person who had no problem announcing his own arrival—at 2:42 am—with very strong and loud cries. And with that Malcolm Alexander was here—12 minutes after we pulled into the birth center parking lot.

            In a time when black birth is under scrutiny due to the historic and contemporary perils to black birthing person it cannot be overstated how happy I was with my labor and birth. My immediate post-partum experience at the birth center was delightful. My stepson was able to nap in a neighboring room and immediately meet his younger brother. All of Malcolm’s exams were done in the room and he was never separated from us the entire 6 hours we were there. After his exams we were given time to sleep as a family, and I must say this was my favorite moment of the whole experience, resting with my husband and hours old son in the darkness of early morning under a full moon and an eclipse. There was no better way for my labor and delivery to go. I was listened to, affirmed, and cared for throughout my pregnancy and I was honored and encouraged once my son was here. To say things escalated quickly would be an understatement but they went exactly as they should.

Baby #1 done!

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