Every mom has a birth story. Some begin with a dramatic breaking of waters, others start slowly and take days to complete, some begin with a phone call from the adoption agency – however a mother becomes a mother, the story weaves its way into the tapestry of her life like a bright neon thread against a subdued pattern…there’s nothing like it and it stands out forever. They say it helps to write it down, so I thought I would.
Tulsi Anabelle Matlock began her journey towards birth slowly. It started on Friday 9/20/2013, when she decided to drop down and take a seat on my sacro-iliac joint – OUCH! I thought I had sciatica, but it turns out she was descending and made a slight wrong turn on the way. This sort of thing isn’t that uncommon in the final weeks of pregnancy, so I didn’t think much of it except that it was a bummer to be unable to walk without pain. “Oma” McGilloway arrived that day and we began speculating about when baby Tulsi would arrive…little did we know just how soon it would be!
The beginning – Pre-Labor
Saturday passed without much change. Around 4am on Sunday morning I began to feel mild contractions. These were different than the Braxton Hicks I was accustomed to feeling, although only slightly. For fun, as I had on other early mornings with mild contractions, I got comfy in my arm chair and pulled out my iPhone and started timing contractions. Like I said, these were mild, and I fell back into a deep sleep several times throughout the morning. My contractions ranged from 3 minutes to 18 minutes apart – nothing to shake a stick at…so, when it came time to rise and greet the day I did so without thinking on it too much.
I began to take notice later in the morning, when these ‘practice’ contractions just didn’t seem to want to go away. Normally they stop after a few hours and normally they don’t come with slightly uncomfortable cramps. I began to tell Badri to stay close and to stay in touch. He had made plans to help the Lewis’ move that day and do a variety of his usual outside projects, but he too was suspicious of what my body was up to and agreed to stay in touch all day.
I continued to monitor things and went about my day, being sure to eat food when I was hungry and continue to time contractions. Devi came for tea that afternoon with mom and I, which was a lovely distraction from the stop watch. We sipped our tea and caught up on all sorts of topics; all of us enjoying our time like the life-long friends that we are.
The real deal – Active Labor
As day turned into evening, the contractions continued and began to strengthen little by little. They also became closer together – 2-7 minutes apart. By 6:30pm I began to think this is the real deal, but I wanted a sign…something that would tell me for sure it was time to alert the Doula and think about the hospital bag. See, the tricky part to our labor plan was the fact that we wanted to labor at home as long as possible to avoid any pressure from the hospital and the enjoy the comforts of home. By 7:30pm I had my sign – I’ll spare you the details – but suffice it to say, I was convinced.
We called the Doula, Ashlee, and got me into a tub of water to relax. By now, I could no longer talk through my contractions. When they came, I had to close my eyes and breathe rhythmically. Once they passed, I was back to normal. Hey, I thought, no big deal – I can handle this!
At 9pm things were getting harder and harder. My pelvic muscles were already getting sore and I wondered just how far along I was. Ashlee saw signs that the hospital time was near, but we just weren’t sure. So, we called in the cavalry (Mangala) and got the scoop. I was sadly disappointed to learn that I’d only dilated 2 centimeters through all that work. Mangala suggested that we were in it for the long haul and the hold off on the hospital as long as we could – first babies take a long time.
I tried to rest and let my body do it’s job. The longer I lay there resting, the more anxious I became about the drive to town…how was I going to handle the windies? What would I do when a contraction hit? What if I moved into transition on the way to the hospital?! My mind raced and I tried to stay calm about it all. We listened to Swamiji’s Aum mantra on repeat, which did ease some of my tension and Badri was with me for each contraction, breathing and helping to support me to get through it.
Finally, at 11pm I folded and said I needed to go to the hospital to relax into the rest of the process. I was just too freaked out about the drive and was worried that I was stalling my own labor unconsciously.
The Hospital – Midnight
11:30pm-ish brought us to the hospital. The windies weren’t any fun, as I suspected, but I made it through them and managed to drag myself into the emergency entrance with the help of my devoted, amazing husband. Mom parked the car and Ashlee helped her bring in some of our things – the rest were piled in Badri’s arms. Check-in was a breeze and I was wheeled to a delivery room in good time, where we all settled in and hoped it would not be long now.
We were sad to learn that Monday was not Dr. Dahle’s scheduled hospital day and the nurses were not going to alert him to our impending delivery. They assured me that he nearly always checks in on his days off, and they would certainly tell him about us when he did, but there was no guarantee.
Upon checking, I was only 4-5 centimeters dilated and baby had dropped, but not that far. I couldn’t believe it because I sure felt exhausted and the pain of each contraction was consuming. I took a deep breath and tried to get my mind in a better place. On went the Aum mantra again, which always helped, and our chosen alter pictures were placed in eye-shot for me to focus on.
We began many many hours of trying various things to help me progress. We walked the halls, stopping for each contraction along the wall where I could squat down easily and then rise up again. We pulled out the yoga ball, which was a total god-send. Out came my yoga mat and I labored in extended child’s pose. Each hour passed and I hoped I was opening. I tried and tried to relax my jaw, manage my breath, focus on birthing our beautiful baby. Deep inside, I could sense a fear – fear of the unknown, fear of the next stage of labor, fear of the pain. I hoped I wasn’t holding myself back. Hours and hours passed and we all grew steadily more tired, but kept going. Each contraction now was exhausting – Badri and Ashlee would see my cue, help to lift me into a seated position in bed and tell me how good I was doing as I breathed through the next contraction. At the end, they would help me back down to the bed to rest.
Somewhere around 7am Dr. Goddard arrived to check in on me. He was a goofball and cracked a few ice-breaker jokes, which I appreciated, since I’d never met the guy. He suggested we break my water to speed things up. That was the one intervention we had agreed we would consider if this circumstance arrived, so after a few moments of consideration, we asked him to go ahead and do it. He warned me that things were going to get exponentially harder after he broke my water – it was somewhat terrifying because I couldn’t imagine things much harder than they already were. But, I took a deep breath and said let’s do it because there was just one way this was going to end and it was with a healthy baby in my arms.
Transition – Master Give me Strength
With my water broken, things progressed, but not nearly as immediately as I had expected. I continued to labor for hours. I’m not exactly sure when transition began, but I’d say it must have been around 10am. The Aum mantra was humming all through my body at this point. Any inhibitions I had about crying out or embarrassing body functions were gone. As the waves of contractions came, I focused on aum, breathed faster and faster and prayed to Master for help. The chant, Fill my Body with the Sound of Aum began to buzz in my ear. I focused on it and let the music guide me through each contraction.
The urge to push came before I was fully dilated – total bummer. It added to each contraction a feeling of loss of control like none other. I had to change my breathing to stop myself from pushing. I was so close, but not quite there. Our nurse, Sara, suggested that I take a hot shower to help move things along and, although I could barely stand and was gushing fluids every moment, I agreed – I was desperate.
Around noon things changed. Dr. Dahle, our trusted and much loved provider, strode into our hospital room. He smiled at us and brought with him fresh energy. He checked me and found that I was 9.5 cm dilated and that baby was turned slightly, which would explain why I was not dilating on one side as fast as the rest of my cervix – it might have explained the lengthy labor as well. He said I could start pushing if I wanted.
I was afraid yet again – another new experience. Would this be more painful? How long would this go on? Fortunately, Dr. Dahle’s confidence in me and my team of angels helped me get mentally prepared. On the first or second push, Dr. Dahle was able to turn Tulsi into a better position. He coached me in pushing and cheered me on when I did it correctly. It took a few tries, but I got the hang of it by the 3rd contraction and we were on a roll.
Much to my joy, Dr. Dahle said that I was doing great and we’d have a baby in no time. That gave me another wind of energy and in less than an hour (at 1:27pm), baby Tulsi was in my arms! What an experience it was! The satisfaction of pushing her out quickly after such a long, painful labor; the awe that suddenly there was a whole new human being in the room; the joy in feeling her skin against mine!
After 32.5 hours of labor (18.5 of the hard stuff), our baby girl had arrived and she was absolutely perfect.
A few little side tid bits for memory sake – apparently I had an extra lobe on my placenta, who knew?! Dahle was fascinated and showed it to me and all the nurses. Also, my cord was short and he spent a moment puzzled as to how to fulfill our wishes for delayed cord clamping AND immediate skin to skin contact. In the end, we opted for skin to skin and Badri did the honors of cutting the cord. Ah, and the final kicker was a sprained SI joint, but it will heal up in a few more weeks and I’m otherwise very healthy.
Exhausted and ecstatic, the rest of the day was a blur. I knew I needed to sleep, but I just couldn’t stop staring at this tiny being in my arms. Badri’s mom arrived from Huntington Beach moments after the birth and helped us through the process of moving into a recovery room. She also took charge of my mom, who had been awake far too long and was a zombie like the rest of us. Jaimie and Hannah and mom went for food at Briar Patch, helped us get comfortable and then went home to prepare the house for our arrival the next day.
There are a million more details, but I think I’ve captured enough. I could not have had the birth experience that I did without my support team – mom, Badri and Ashlee. Prayers from Ananda Worldwide were felt keenly in that little hospital room. My heart aches for anyone who does not have the community of support that we do in times like this. Birth tested my willpower in a way that nothing had ever done before. And, thanks to all those angels, I passed my personal test and feel stronger now than I’ve ever felt before.
Labor is a spiritual experience. It pushes you to your edge and beyond; it humbles you; it makes you face your primal self. It helps to prepare a family for what lies ahead. Tulsi is a happy, healthy, very easy baby, but I would not be able to appreciate her in the same way without the labor experience. Now, whether she wants to nurse all day or all night, whether she cries endlessly (fortunately, that hasn’t happened yet) or not, labor has taught me patience like nothing before. We are so blessed to have Tulsi in our lives and so blessed to live in a community with such great souls to help us along the way.
Thank you for all your prayers!
Gita & family