The New Moon Brings Babies (so does the full moon): Fact. Looking back, it seems obvious, since all things womanly and motherly correlate are influenced by the moon, but much of western civilization has lost touch with that part of our heritage, thus I could hardly believe the extent of the moon’s power in ushering new babies into the world.
A few Mondays ago, just as my stir-craziness from the previous week of little work was peaking, Eulalia told me that Wednesday was a new moon so we could expect a baby that day, and possibly more this week. That prediction manifested more fully than I could have imagined: A call Tuesday night meant a baby at 12:45 AM Wednesday morning. That story to come. Next, we delivered another baby on Thursday evening. Twelve hours later, we delivered our third baby of the week. Three babies in three days, just like she’d said it would happen.
The Wednesday birth was a wake-up call for almost too many things to remember. We arrived by way of our bombero chariot at about half past 8 PM and our patient, we’ll call her Lorena, was 6 cm dilated. She is 20 years old, and this is to be her first child – actually a few years late in her community. We knew we would stay, possibly all night, so I settled in with my Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth while the labor progressed. Poor girl. She was definitely the most agitated of the 3 births that I had seen at that point. With each contraction she looked about ready to jump out of her skin, and they were coming frequently, every 2-5 minutes. Finally, about 11PM, she was up and down out of bed, and I was using my newly imparted knowledge of leg massage (thanks, Ina May) to help make her more comfortable. Eulalia of course has used said leg-loosening technique on every patient, both pre-natal and intra-partum, I just hadn’t asked in as great of detail as was explained in Ina May’s book.
Eulalia checked again, 8 cm. We were close, but maybe not close enough for Lorena’s liking. We attended her with leg and back massages and several position changes. During the labor, I struggled a little because the laboring mother was making what seemed to me to be very little sound, but the grandmother-to-be deemed it too much, and was trying to clamp down her mouth and nose throughout each contraction. The other common practice that I never quite understand in any birth (perhaps just because I haven’t seen it before), is the grandmothers exerting downward force on the laboring mother’s head/neck… I’m still not sure how or if it helps, but it was commonplace. In any case, as I watched that part of the grandmother’s “help” all I could think was, “well, this is different,” and, “I’ll be damned if anybody tries to touch me like that/clamp down my mouth while I’m trying to push a baby out,” but it wasn’t my birth nor my culture to advise, and so it continued. After an hour of hard pushing and lots of emotion and work from the mother and her 5 attendants, the baby was born: purple, limp, and not breathing. Standard practice, we suctioned her with the bulb and commenced with vigorous rubbing to stimulate her. Still, she remained barely gurgling and completely limp. Eulalia delivered a few breaths mouth-to-mouth before I grabbed the ambu bag and offered to help with oxygenating the baby. At that point, Eulalia handed me the baby and told me to keep going while she delivered the placenta.
After a little more than an hour, the baby was starting to move feebly, but still wasn’t breathing regularly, so to be sure, we took her into the hospital. She started crying like a normal baby and moving 5 minutes after we arrived. Go figure. They kept her overnight and everything was fine. It’s safe to say that while a challenging experience in the moment, I learned A LOT about difficult labor, and purple babies.
The second birth came about 36 hours later, thankfully, in our own home – it was Estela’s turn. (Eulalia’s daughter-in-law). Estela was a champ in every sense of the word. The next day, she told me, “It’s always the same, isn’t it? It’s just a terrible pain!” but in the moment, she barely showed it – she kept herself occupied by doing chores up until 15 minutes before her babe crowned. After a few minutes of pushing, she too changed to a gravity-assisted position aka squatting, and Eulalia caught her healthy baby boy a little before 8PM. I breathed an audible sigh of relief when he entered the world pink and crying.
Birth number three arrived barely 12 hours later in Chimachoy. I could see my breath as we hoofed it up to the house at the end of the road. We entered to our mama-to-be sitting on the bed, looking characteristically uncomfortable but stoic. 10 cm dilated, she started pushing to no avail. Next step was engaging gravity, with still no results. “I don’t have the energy,” said Mom. “Well keep going, you have to!” Responded Eulalia. Five more minutes of what should have been a show of strength on the mom’s part, Eulalia looked up at the bureau standing behind the laboring mother. She pointed, “We need to cover the mirrors!” She said firmly to the attending family, who obeyed immediately. “No, all of them, you can’t leave anything showing, it sucks the energy from the room.” And so all the mirrors in the room were covered. Less than five minutes later, yet another healthy baby boy was brought into the world by the Doña. Placebo effect? Who knows. And who cares? Since it worked.