Submitted by his mama Monica Ann Stockall with photos taken by dad
Dedicated to Xquenda Luis Stockall
February baby. We’re here. I can’t stand the anticipation and uncertainty of not knowing when you’ll arrive. I tell myself it’ll be on the full moon of Saturday the 15th. I just can’t wait to meet you.
Valentine’s day. I bake you a birthday cake; a vegan dark chocolate spelt brownie covered in dried camomile flowers and topped with a 0 candle, which we have left over from your grandpa’s 50th a few months ago. I make heart-shaped banana muffins for your dad and the midwives who will be assisting me in your home birth. It’s snowing hard. Your dad comes home from work and surprises me with a beautiful rose. I put it on the birth altar I created at my bedside; inspiration for my body to slowly and gently open up to let you out. In the evening I listen to my Baby Come Out hypnosis track and wait for my birthing waves to start. They don’t.
We wait until Monday to dig into your birthday cake. I’m officially over 40 weeks pregnant. I know that babies need to come out before a certain time to be able to be safely born at home, naturally, without any interventions, with a midwife. Just as I’ve planned for us. I desire my ideal birth experience so intensely, and do not want to go near the possibility of having to go to a hospital for any reason. Sometimes at night I feel my uterus tense up gently. A sensation between a clenching fist and a hiccough in my huge belly.
Mid-week, I feel what I imagine to be my cervix opening gently. It feels like the ground opening up from underneath me. I can feel how close you are. I continue to listen to several hypnosis tracks every day, which help me so much to relax deeply, and confidently look forward to your birthing time. I’m constantly visualizing my body softening and opening to let you through. The power of deep breathing and positive affirmations is a radical new experience for me.
It’s Friday the 21st. I go to my appointment with our midwife, Marika. We talk about the possibility of eventually trying natural induction techniques. Primrose oil. Castor oil. Unsticking the membranes. Rupturing the membranes. She gives me a referral for an ultrasound and electronic fetal monitoring at the hospital. I accept it and pray you come out before the appointment. She offers to perform an internal check. Curiosity wins me over and I accept. To my great relief and uncontainable excitement, the smile on her face says it all: “We’re going to be seeing each other again very soon!” My cervix is already 80% effaced and 3cm dilated. My body has already silently started the work! I trust my instincts and know you’re really on your way now.
Your papito picks me up and I tell him the great news. I feel like all these months, you’ve been away on a long trip; now the wait for our reunion is almost over. The last leg of it is upon us. You’re coming home. I imagine you on an airplane. Still so far in another realm, suspended in a fragile space. Yet so close, about to begin your descent and landing very soon.
Our fridge is ridiculously empty so we decide to do groceries on our way home. On the way, I suddenly feel my first contraction. Real or fake, it’s intense and it scares me. I tell your dad to take us home instead. “Are you serious?” “Yeah.” He immediately turns the truck around. The feeling passes. I realize I just can’t welcome you home with an empty fridge. The fact that you’ll be on an exclusive breast milk diet for the next 6 months is besides the point. We turn around yet again and head to our favorite, cheapest grocery store. We joke about me giving birth to you beside their famous mountain of smelly dried fish at the back. No such thing happens. I don’t have a single additional contraction.
Back home, we have a nap. It’s now evening. Our kitchen light bulb burns out. We prepare a romantic candlelight dinner of homemade vegetarian poutine with cilantro and fried onions. Your dad goes back out in the rain just to buy cheese curds from the fancy overpriced grocery store not far from our apartment. I sense it’s our last supper just us 3, with Chia. An exquisite sunset of orange, pink and purple illuminates our kitchen window. I make more muffins, carrot and raisin this time. I go to bed early, around 10:30. I want to be as rested as possible for what’s to come.
I’m awakened at 1:15 in the morning by powerful contractions coming and going at regular intervals. They feel like the cramps I usually get on the first day of my menstruation. I’m surprised at how strong they are. I know it without a doubt; your landing is upon us. As much as I looked forward to this time, I feel scared. I wake up your dad to tell him. He reminds me, half asleep, “This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Try to enjoy it…” I ask him to grab his cell phone to help me time how spaced out my pressure waves are. I squeeze his hand and wake him up again every time one starts. They’re 3 minutes apart.
I say goodbye to my imagined romantic “latent phase”. There’ll be no easing into it. No burst of energy for last minute preparations while rocking out to my birthing day playlist of empowering feel-good songs, no calling my friend Léa who we’d planned would photograph your birth. No making love to get labor going. I come to accept it and get into action. I put on my Easy First Stage hypnosis track and try to go into hypnosis, as I’ve practised countless times before. I just can’t relax. I can’t even hear what the recording is saying. I try to visualize my special place. Imagine my anesthesia. But with every wave I just writhe and moan in intense discomfort.
I ask your dad to wake up and stay with me. I need him. I remember my “orgasmic birthing” techniques and we try passionate kissing during each pressure wave, to help me relax and produce more oxytocin, the contraction-inducing love hormone. I start to realize I might not have the easy, comfortable, painless and orgasmic birth experience I solely prepared myself for.
As my last hope I run a hot bath. Lavender salts. I light a candle in my clay candle holder that casts heart and diamond shaped shadows on the wall. Our apartment is in complete darkness, apart from the flame and a few Christmas lights we still have up. Our bath is so small and awkward to move in with my huge belly. The water doesn’t relieve me in the least. I ask your dad to make me hierba buena tea and stay close to me. He’s still so tired and sleepy. My pressure waves actually start to space out so I tell myself I better get out. I begin to travel incessantly from our bed, to the toilet, to the couch, and back again. I feel like I need to shit, piss and vomit, all at the same time, with nothing coming out. My uterus and thighs seem to want to crawl out of my skin. The power at work inside me is indescribable.
I realize the only thing that makes the contractions more bearable is making very loud, low guttural moans through my throat and mouth. Sounds I didn’t even know I’m capable of. Noises I’d be way too self-conscious to make in any other circumstance. They fall somewhere between a desperate cry and a sacred, entranced chant. Making them feels like release. Like freedom. Like pure, sweet surrender. I enter the sound and I stay there, safe inside its vibrancy, until the wave with its crescendo motion passes. Then I rest in total off mode, until the next.
At 3am, I call Marika. I tell her this is it. With that calm voice of hers, she asks me for details. I have little conception of how long my contractions are so we go through one together. She listens on the other end. She says she’ll be on her way. I settle for a kneeling position on the floor, leaning forward on the sofa. I brace myself for each contraction.
She’s here within 30 minutes. With tears in my eyes I tell her it’s not what I expected. She says “I know… It’s okay. You’re doing amazingly.” She proceeds to move all my things to install her material. Your dad helps her prepare the room. It takes them some time because we didn’t think to put the “homebirth list of things to prepare” things all in one place. I’m by myself while they do this. Even Chia’s set herself apart. I feel really alone.
The bedroom is finally ready. Your dad comes to get me. I climb on our bed and get back on all fours immediately. I prop my elbows on a stack of pillows. My head is down and my pelvis is up in the air. Ayayayayayayay… I hear myself say. I’m so thirsty. Your dad brings me glass after glass of water. I feel I can’t move any inch of my body. He pours it for me into my mouth. He places cold compresses on my nape and forehead. Touches me to let me know he’s there. Gently reminds me to relax and release.
My feet become ice cold. Marika puts my green wool socks on them, the ones I hand-stitched from an old sweater. The warmth and softness comforts me. She applies pressure to my lower back with her hands. She offers to check my dilation to know if it’s time to call the 2nd midwife who will assist her when you come out. I had told her I didn’t want to be checked because I was afraid putting a number to my progress would discourage me. But I just agree to it. I’m at 9.5cm. The pushing stage is very near.
I feel discouraged for a moment that my hypno-anesthesia isn’t working, yet I’m so relieved that everything is happening so fast. I’ll be meeting you so soon, honey. I wonder how on earth women choose to have more than one child. How they knowingly go through this. I mostly have no concept of time. I experience the present moment so fully. I feel propelled forward into the unknown at breakneck speed. I realize the only way out of this is through. I have to embrace it. Give myself over completely.
I start to speak to myself out loud. I repeat my learned hypnosis word-cues over and over. Like a mantra. I don’t care if they work or not, I’m using them. I feel I’m hanging on to them for dear life. “Release… relax… peace… Xquenda… open, open, open… powerful anesthesia in my uterus, in my cervix, in my vagina…” Over and over. Breathlessly. I feel like I’m out at sea all by myself. In the middle of a storm. I hardly have enough time to catch my breath before the next wave knocks me down again. I dig my claws into my stack of pillows. I feel I’m hanging on to the dear ground in the midst of a hurricane. Losing total control.
“You’re doing great, Monica”, Marika tells me. Those words mean SO much to me in this moment. At some point, Marie-Josée, the second midwife, arrives. Your dad tells me he’ll be right back, he’s going to make them all coffee. Coffee? Really?
I suddenly feel hot water gush out of me. I’m so relieved. It must be almost over. The urge to push is descending upon me. I try to push. I don’t exactly know how. Marika tells me to focus all my energy into my pelvis, instead of into the sounds I’m making with my mouth. “Make deeper, lower, grunting sounds even, as if you need to shit something out”. I try her suggestion. I’m amazed at the shift in energy. The power of it. The feeling of your slow descent… She informs me that there’s meconium in my water. That’s not a good thing. She checks your heartbeat with a doppler in between each contraction. It’s strong and stable, but she looks at me in the eyes and tells me I have to get you out sooner than later.
The pressure is ON. Figuratively, literally. So. Much. Pressure. There’s unbelievable pressure in my entire pelvic region. I momentarily feel scared at feeling my body open so much. I know there is no other way. I have to accept it. Run with it. Dive into it entirely. Your head starts to crown. Little by little. It keeps going back in. Over and over like that. An hour of back and forth. Back and forth…
Daylight is starting to creep into our room. They can see your dark hair. I’m riding the momentum of each contraction. I’m pushing down and screaming like a savage animal, a lion maybe, until I have no more breath or energy left inside me. Not because I’m in pain but because of the sheer power it gives me. I feel the excited energy in the room with each bit of you that slides out. I notice how it dies down as my own energy dwindles and you slide back in. I’m getting tired. Marika advises me to change positions. I lay down on my side with my leg propped up wide in the air, supported by someone. I try a few pushes in this position. I’ve had it now. I tell myself that with the next wave, you ARE coming out. I push, I push, I push until I feel an incredible burning in my vagina, I push until I can’t anymore and then I continue to push. This is it. Yes yes yes! I hear them say, so I don’t stop, I scream out every single last ounce of me that I possess, and finally… your head is out. I did it. I push some more and the rest of your body slides out in one awkward sensation. It’s 7:11 am on February 22nd. The moment of your birth.
Before I know it, a little grey-blue, slimy and bloody creature is handed over to me… YOU! They hand you to me and I lay you on my belly. I have no idea how to hold you. I can hardly believe it, that you’re really there, looking up at me with your almond-shaped eyes. I look over to your dad who’s lying down beside me and watching you with the same amazement and look of surprise that I have. We both thought this moment would bring tears to our eyes but it doesn’t, we’re both just in complete awe, eyes wide open, speechless. You start crawling towards my breast, searching for my nipple with your mouth. I try to help you but Marika suggests to let you find it on your own. You eventually do, and suck for a moment. Oh, how I’ve imagined this moment countless times! I look at you closely. I’m amazed at your full head of dark hair. The fine duvet on your back. Your tiny ears. Your long fingernails. You have your dad’s beautiful skin color. You’re still attached to me by your umbilical cord. My placenta comes out ten minutes later in a gentle gush. We wait a while before clamping it. Eventually our dad cuts the squishy cord attaching us together.
My emotions are indescribable. Joy. Love. Gratitude. Pride. Relief. Exhaustion. Adrenaline. Peace. Hunger. Vulnerability. Strength. I start to tremble. I feel so weak and lightheaded. I eat a muffin, drink some water. There’s a lot of blood coming out of me. The midwives give us some space to be together. They insist that I pee to help stop the bleeding. After a few tries I finally do. They clean up a bit, then start to stitch up the 2nd degree tear in my perineum. Your father lies on the bed beside me and holds you skin to skin on his chest. You’re quiet and wide awake, observing the world around you. You do your first pee on his belly. He holds my hand at the same time. They use anesthesia but I can feel the needle and thread go in anyway, countless times. I cry and try to be strong. This is the most unpleasant part of my birthing experience. They say it’s like putting a puzzle together. It takes them an hour to do it. God, please let them put this sacred aspect of my femininity back together correctly.
It’s finally over. I crave a shower to clean off the blood and clean clothes to cover my nakedness. I quickly have one and come back to bed and hold you. Your dad snuggles with us too, in between loads of laundry and preparing tuna salad for the midwives and me. Marika comes to weigh and examine you. I watch in amazement as she tests out your responses and reflexes. You weigh 8 pounds and 4 ounces.
I call my mom. She cries tears of happiness, in disbelief that she slept soundly through my labor. She can’t wait to meet you. An hour or two later, she comes over. The moment I see my own mother is when I finally feel the tears well up inside me… There are just no words to describe initiation into mamahood.
Written by Monica Ann Stockall