…was born on her due date, Jan 28, at 12:31 p.m. She weighed 8 lbs and 13 ounces and measured 21.5 inches.
After 2.5 weeks of prelabor contractions, I woke up at 3:45 a.m. with stronger contractions. Kylie and I arrived at the birth center around 8:30 a.m., and four hours later, our daughter was born!
In some ways, I don’t have words to describe the experience. In other ways, I have too many words. The unabridged version of her birth story is already six pages long, single-spaced, and I’m not even done yet.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called “Waiting,” in which I described some of the yoga skills that I anticipated would be helpful during labor and delivery. I also mentioned that I’d test the truth of this theory. So… here’s the verdict:
- Breathing into tense pain–like holding a lunge for a long time and breathing into the burn of the thigh… only a lot more intense.
Truth. Before labor, Kylie had said something about “going to your happy place” in my head to deal with the pain. I didn’t like this idea–it was about escaping. Yoga teaches you to stay with the sensation and breathe through it. One breath at a time.
During active labor, Kylie and our doula reminded me over and over that my job was to breathe, to pull each breath all the way down into the contraction. I can’t say it was pleasant, but it was bearable. One breath at a time, labor was bearable.
- Holding only the muscles necessary for the pose, and relaxing the nonessential muscles. In other words, you’re not holding the lunge with your shoulders or your face, and you can’t push with your face either…
As I breathed, pulling the breath into the contraction, I tried to relax everything–especially the hip muscles that might be hindering dilation. I focused on relaxing my shoulders and my hips and breathed. The best thing I could do was get out of the way of my body’s wisdom and let my body deliver the baby. I think this was one reason that my dilation progressed at a good clip — and even if it wasn’t, it gave me something to do!
- Savasana and the ability to relax–apparently this will be helpful between contractions.
It was! At one point, maybe an hour before Siena was born, the space between contractions became such a deep rest that I dreamed. I dreamed something about a sign–no idea what, really–but even in that moment, I was shocked by the fact that I had relaxed that deeply.
So: the verdict is that yoga skills did indeed help me endure the internal marathon of childbirth. I had thought that various poses would have helped me–but they didn’t. The practice of yoga is not about the poses, not about being able to execute a beautiful Bird of Paradise pose with Olympic poise. Yoga is about the breath, being present, and choosing rest even while working. The poses give us opportunities to practice and to align; the essence of yoga is with the breath.
And I love the symmetry of drawing on the power of the ruach life-breath of God to help me push my daughter to drawing her first (screaming) breath. I’ve never heard a more life-filled cry.