Wisewoman Childbirth Traditions
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Maria Iorillo
Licensed Midwife
415-285-9233

Freestyle for Ishaan by Nova Wilson

Before I could really get into this pushing bit, Maria and the nurses wanted to check me to ensure that I was fully dilated. Somehow in the midst of my labor land daze I had the foresight to request that they not tell me how many centimeters dilated I was if I wasn’t fully dilated. I was asked to lie down, a request that I protested fervently (now I know why women should never be asked to labor lying down, it is cruel and painful). After I was checked, Maria looked at me smiling and told me that I only had a little ways to go. I was thankful that she had not given me a number, but devastated by the idea of not pushing.

After the labor was over I remember Maria saying to me that she thought I was going to have a painless birth. But then, I had to resist the urge to push. This was for me the hardest part of my labor, it lasted for about an hour, but it felt like forever. Again, Ayumi our superstar nurse who it turns out was a midwife in her native Japan, anticipated my needs. She came in to the room with one of those hospital tables that they serve food on raised to its full upright position. We, all of us, spent the next hour glued to that table. With Alyson across from me keeping me focused and breathing, my mom by my side, and Elsu and Maria switching off on back massage, I some how managed not to drop to the floor and push. I could barely keep my eyes open as the urges came. I remember whimpering and asking why this was happening. At some point I turned to Elsu and told him that this was the only child he was going to have. When I think back to this moment, what I remember most is the pull of gravity and Alyson’s beautiful blue eyes holding me up.

After what felt like an eternity, I sensed hasty movement all around me. Next I remember Ayumi looking at me and saying, “Your baby doesn’t like the pitocin”. Apparently there were some decels with the baby’s heart tones. Then Maria asked me how I felt about trying to rest for an hour. Smart woman. If they had just asked me to lie down, I probably would have refused, but the idea of rest was very appealing. So I lay on my left side, sniffing oxygen from a foul-smelling oxygen mask, while I draped my right leg over Elsu’s shoulder. And my leg had to be draped just so, other wise the pain in my hips was excruciating (thank you Elsu).

As I was lying there, I look up to see the senior midwife smiling at me and talking to me about blood work. It turned out they were worried about my platelets and wanted to take a second look to make sure that everything was okay, and that they were adequately prepared just in case I were to show signs of pre-eclampsia and (don’t you dare even think about saying it) need a c-section. If that midwife could have read the look on my face, it would have read, and please excuse the sexist profanity, “b*#ch you crazy, after all the work I’ve just done, you are gonna talk to me about a c-section? You must me out of your mind”. Thankfully, I don’t think she was well versed in the ways of Nova’s facial expressions and I had the wherewithal not to say what I was thinking. Instead, I asked if I had to have the blood work done, and Maria quickly let me know that I didn’t. The nurse midwife said she would let us think about for an hour; Maria assured me that we would think about for “like” five hours.

After an hour had passed, the senior nurse midwife checked me to see if I was fully dilated. I was close enough that with a little manipulation I was given the okay to push. With that, someone helped me up and we headed for the bathroom. I sat there waiting to push but the urge didn’t come. I kept asking if I should push, they kept asking me do you feel like pushing. I thought, “well obviously not if I’m asking”. Then I learned that the pitocin had been shut off. I guess I really needed it this time around, because shortly after it was turned on again, I remembered what the urge to push felt like.

Ah, profanity. I pushed in the bathroom for about a half an hour. It was during that time that I felt the splitting open sensation in my pelvis. Who knew I could scream so loud and for so long. And, the sustain, even as I was saying it, I couldn’t believe how long a person could say the word fuck. It seems that the sensation that brought on such language was my baby’s head passing through my pelvis. All I knew is that after that I needed to change position.

From the bathroom we moved to the labor room. This is where I would spend the remaining time bringing my baby into the world. At first, I was utterly confused; I remember repeating that I didn’t know what to do. In my mind I was thinking, “I thought confusion came with transition, haven’t I gone through transition already”. But with a few suggestions, I was able to make some decisions about where I wanted to have my baby. First, we tried a standing squat with Elsu supporting me, and my mom supporting Elsu. From there I moved to the futon, I sat up against Elsu with my knees pulled up and my feet pushing against Lauren, the student midwife who had been ever so invisibly attending my birth the entire time. I remember throughout the labor that I would notice her every once in a while and when I did she always seemed to be watching with such genuine awe and excitement. When pushing in the semi-sitting position got too intense, I moved to hands and knees, where I remained for the rest of the labor.

With each contraction I felt the need to announce my urge to push to the entire room and with each announcement everyone in the room met me with encouragement. There was one time where my announcement wasn’t met with the enthusiasm I had come to expect, so I let everyone know that I needed all of their attention if I was going to push the baby out. I remember reaching down to feel my baby’s head, it was soft and wet and I knew that I would meet this little person soon. I pushed, again letting the entire room know my intention and again they were there to encourage me on. Then I felt the burn and it really hurt, I remember telling myself to push into the burn and then it happened, it felt like cold water had been poured over my vagina and the burning just stopped. “Oh” I thought to myself, “this must be the numbing sensation”. I reached down again hoping that my baby’s head had fully crowned, but I could feel that the head had not yet emerged. Again, I remembered what I already knew, that it takes a few pushes until the head fully crowns. So with the next few pushes I made crowning my priority. I remembering hearing someone say they could see a head. I rested for a moment, while the voices behind me kept telling me to push my baby out. And then I did. I felt the head pass through and then just like I had always heard, I felt my slippery baby boy be born into the world. Ishaan Yaima Martin was born on Wednesday May 21, 2008 at 6:53pm into the hands of his papa, Elsu Martin. Because of the meconium, he was rushed to a little station ten feet away, where his papa watched over him until we all enjoyed the sound of his first cries. Moments later he was in my arms and we all marveled at the beautiful addition to our family.

While I was lying happily on my back being stitched up by the Lauren, I remember thanking everyone for all they had done. I had the birth I had wanted to have. The only difference was that it was at St. Luke’s and instead only having the birth team we had planned on, we were joined by two additional women who were highly capable, utterly respectful, and clearly happy to be a part of our birth. Later that night Maria told me that Ayumi had said that in Japan they call those kind of births freestyle birth. I was told that I would feel a sense of pride and accomplishment after the birth of my child, and I did. But I think for me, I felt a little something extra having overcome my fears to have the birth I wanted to have in the place I had least expected to have it. I happily had my “homebirth” freestyling at St. Luke’s.