Ride the Wave: Floating Through the Centimeters

Special thanks to Bailey Gaddis for sharing her transcendent birth story with us. Like many mothers, she was desperate for labor to start after she passed her due date. But once things got started, cervical dilation measurements played a major role along the journey: from determining if it was time for admission to the hospital to causing her doctor to decide to break her bag of water to determining that her dilation was too far advanced to get an epidural.  Read on to see how she harnessed her inner strength throughout her birth experience. You can find the full story in Bailey's book, Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood, available on Amazon. Inspired by her beautiful story? Check out her website, Your Serene Life, where you can learn about hypnobirthing and childbirth classes.

By Bailey Gaddis of Your Serene Life

Did you know the birthing body can bust through hundreds of brick walls with the serenity of a monk melting ice with his mind?

My inner control freak was knocked off her throne when my son was not born on the date my doctor marked on his shipping slip. No one had told me that only about 5 percent of babies are born on their due date. My sham due date of June 19 ostentatiously arrived, and then flitted away with no baby — at least not my baby. I was irked (totally pissed), convinced my child was going to live in my womb forever, content to nuzzle my bladder, jab my ribs, and spawn a lifetime of constipation.

Another twenty-four hours passed, and that now-frazzled control freak in me totally panicked. I had sex, shuffled four miles, doused my tomato juice with hot sauce, and found a YouTube “labor-inducing” video that required me to dance to the Tootsee Roll song. Nothing. “If shaking my rump to a nineties rap song won’t do it, what will?” Castor oil. Lube it up.

On June 21, I took three 1-teaspoon doses of castor oil. I have never seen any variety of oil since without the irrepressible urge to re-meet my last meal.

When my husband Eric returned from work two hours later, I was ready to heap my last batch of coal on the baby train: Mexican food. Before we reached the salty crumbs of our first basket of chips, my bowels lashed out. I rushed to the bathroom, expecting mayhem; nothing happened. I suspected something was up, or coming down, and that we’d better get the heck out of there. I had no desire to deliver my baby on the grungy floor of a Mexican restaurant bathroom, alongside a dusty antique crucifix.

Waves of energy reverberated from my uterus...
— Bailey

At home, everything began tightening, cramping, and surging, without going out for recess. (My hair even tightened; I swear it’s been curlier since going through childbirth.) I started to fear that castor oil was more malicious than mischievous.

“If I’m having contractions, aren’t they supposed to be in perfectly timed intervals? Aren’t there supposed to be breaks where I can eat ice cream and watch another movie? What the heck is up with this incessant tsunami?”

After pacing the four feet of my bathroom for a confusing hour, I woke up Eric with every expectant father’s favorite words, “It’s time.” He called our doctor, who galvanized Eric into action when he spluttered the words “castor oil.” Apparently, in our doctor's experience, castor oil either produces unkind bowel movements or facilitates a speedy childbirth (because the contractions rarely break). Yay!

I was in limbo for the first thirty minutes at the hospital, unsure if I was in labor but too consumed by physical sensations to care. Waves of energy reverberated from my uterus, causing tremors in my legs. The sensations were so far beyond pain they didn’t even register as uncomfortable. Because there was no room left for me amid the shaking, I floated above myself, observing the woman being racked by birth.

When a nurse confirmed that it was my uterus, not my bowels, causing all the commotion, a flip switched and I allowed myself to fully check out of my body and into an ethereal space. And I wasn't in early labor - I skipped right to active labor since I was already 5 centimeters dilated with my contractions surging strong. 

I skipped right to active labor since I was already 5 centimeters dilated.
— Bailey

As the birthing woman was wheeled to her labor and delivery room, I floated behind her, noticing the silent sounds of the time warp she was traveling through — leaving one world behind, and pushing into another.

I had spent months listening to guided meditation recordings that had me floating with unicorns and angels on rainbow-colored clouds of cotton candy. The scene my mind dropped me into during childbirth was much different.

I found myself being sucked up into a behemoth wave as the surge of each contraction rolled through me, and I would reach the peak of the wall of water just as my body reached the peak of the surge. As the surge subsided I would slide down the back of the wave. Roughly thirty seconds would lapse before the next wave would draw me up.

This memory is like a shape-shifting dream that changes its story each time I try to remember it. Someone must have given consent for the intervention. Surely it wasn’t me, but maybe it was. Maybe my doctor asked me while I was experiencing the peak of a surge. Maybe I so desperately wanted to meet my baby that I no longer cared how it happened. Maybe the doc just did it. I don’t know, but I do know what it felt like as my baby juice (amniotic fluid) flowed out.

I felt emptiness. I felt like I was losing my padding. That liquid was the first product of labor to escape me, and its loss had impact. I could feel the possibility of my baby being born in-caul (and maybe becoming the next Dalai Lama) draining out of me. (Did you know Tibetan Buddhists seek Caulbearers to bring up to become potential Dalai Lamas?) I also felt relief that my baby might be coming sooner than expected — my labor was now hard.

And then I began to shift into the final phase of labor. The shift got real. I breathed through my nose, visualized my waves, and asked for an epidural.

I wasn’t given the epidural. I was too far along.
— Bailey

Have you ever been in a rainstorm where you think, “Wow, it’s raining really hard! It can’t possibly rain any harder,” and then it begins to rain harder? That’s how my transition into the last act of labor was: really hard rain that was made of intense sensations and endorphins. I wasn’t given the epidural.

I was too far along (almost nine centimeters dilated), and by the time I was pulled into another surge I forgot I had asked for it. Childbirth without an epidural was not easy, was worth every fierce moment, and gave me an insider’s understanding of the reason some women choose to birth with drugs, and some without; they are all super rad mamas.

With each surge and purposeful breath, I was intent on giving my body the time it needed to gingerly ease my baby out. My doctor did not share my intent. I had visions of birth balls, squatting positions, and hip swirling to support my baby through emergence. My doctor did not share my visions. I received the classic hospital treatment: flat on my back, legs up in stirrups.

Giddy-up.

I was then instructed to “push!” for two hours. Animalistic grunts began erupting from somewhere in the room. (“Is that me?!”) Childbirth is a great time to learn what your spirit animal is.

Next time around, I’ll be gently breathing my baby down while floating in a warm pool of fairy water, as my birthing tribe hums sweet somethings into my ear — but I now realize that birth always has the potential to be incredible, regardless of the booby traps that may be wedged into the path (a.k.a. “a hospital bed with metal stirrups”).

With a mighty (and surprisingly unpainful) push, Hudson’s head materialized and my new life began. We did it! I did it! He did it! (And I didn’t poop!)

My doctor slipped the remainder of the delicate little being out of my flummoxed womb and handed me a wailing piece of heaven. Euphoric warmth flooded me — an epic brand of love that spouted from my heart and poured into my core. Mama’s Brand Love — so insane.

The birth of my son was ... an experience forged from a powerful alchemy of lioness-like strength, raw vulnerability, and unavoidable surrender.
— Bailey

The birth of my son was far from what I expected and exactly what I needed — an experience forged from a powerful alchemy of lioness-like strength, raw vulnerability, and unavoidable surrender. Up until the moment I first held my son I had secretly doubted my ability to do anything great in life, hiding my doubt behind a chipper face and a “sure thing!” attitude. But all doubts dissolved as the vulnerability, and the accompanying strength and surrender that were birthed with my baby, played in the light of my new life.