Zhandra gave birth to her daughter, without fear, in 2009. She might have been young, but she was fearless and very well supported and respected. A beautiful and inspiring birth! ~Mrs. BWF
Teen pregnancy is one of those “hot topics” nowadays, surrounded by controversy and viewed as “mistakes”, “recklessness” and all kinds of other degrading things. This image is only amplified by reality TV. Well, not all mothers who happen to start their childbearing journey before legal age are juveniles with no sense of responsibility. Just as a baby is a baby, no matter how small- a mother is a mother, no matter how young.
I was 16 years old when my daughter was conceived. I had left high school a year prior, and was married that November. My husband, her father, turned out not to be very good at fulfilling either of those roles. But had I not had a child with him, I think my life would have played out very differently. Upon seeing that “+” sign on that stick… my entire perspective on life, on myself and on my priorities changed. Changed for good.
I had always distrusted doctors, and had a PTSD-type reaction to hospitals. The last time I had been hospitalized, my mother was afraid I was going to end up in the psych ward, because I just could not handle it and I freaked out. I did not even for a remote second consider having my baby in that environment.
I had only been living in the state of Florida for a few months and did not even know if we HAD midwives here. My plan was this: find a midwife, or catch my own baby in my bathtub. End of story. In hindsight, I really don’t think that is what goes through the mind of most pregnant teenagers
Alas, we found the wonderful Baby Love Birth Center and knew right away that was the answer we had been looking for. My mother gifted me a book, and honestly I don’t know if she thought much of the gesture. The book was Spiritual Midwifery. She had read the book only after having her first 3 children in hospitals, and had never really conquered her own fears of birthing. That book is the reason I never had any fears to overcome. I had a clean slate, a young mind that had not yet learned anything about birth. I learned about birth from Ina May’s perspective- and that literally changed my life.
As my pregnancy progressed, my already volatile relationship deteriorated into all out warfare. I was alone. Stuck under the same roof as a now hostile force, with literally no one but my mother close enough to be there for me. My midwife gave me all the support I needed. She was confident about birth, Ina May was confident about birth in her book… so I was confident about birth. I never doubted, I never feared, I just understood what my body was going to do and that the only part I had control over was how I chose to react to it. So I chose to ride with it, not fight against it.
I went past my “due date”, but I had anticipated that anyway. My midwife had me come in for a non-stress test on December 16th, and I am actually really grateful for that. Listening to her little heart beat, and watching the numbers go up as I felt her movements- she became so real to me then. All of it, the pregnancy, my upcoming birth, my baby- it was real. The monitor revealed something interesting- I was having contractions! According to the machine, I had 3 in 20 minutes. A internal exam revealed I was 2cm dilated. I couldn’t feel a thing yet, so I went on home and went about business as usual, unsure whether I would have a baby in a day or in a week.
That night, I woke up at about 4am to use the bathroom and had bloody show. I paid attention to my body and I was in fact having regular contractions, but they were barely noticeable. I called my best friend who lived 3 hours away as she wanted to be there for the birth. I figured it would be better to have a false alarm and have some extra time with her than for her to miss it. After I got off the phone, I went back to sleep. I laughed at myself a little bit, thinking how could I sleep if I was in labor? But I could not keep my eyes open, so back to sleep went. I continued to sleep until the contractions were strong enough to wake me up. It was approximately 7.30am, the sun was up, but the day was still very new.
I drew myself a bath and tried once to time my contractions- and realized that engaging my brain was distracting me from the work I was doing physically, and it made me uncomfortable. So I stopped thinking. I surrendered and kept my mind quiet as my uterus and my baby did their respective jobs. That little tiny bathtub was not exactly comfortable for all 176 lbs. of mama that I was, and the best position I could find was laying on my side.
As the intensity of the contractions picked up, I decided to call my midwife and let her know we may be coming in to the birth center soon. I also called my mother, and then finally called my baby’s father. He was asleep in the next room- I had not made a peep, so he had no idea I was in labor. I didn’t really want to have a contraction outside of the tub, so I just called him from in the water. At this point I still was not in any “pain”… the sensations were extremely intense, but not painful, not negative. It was like riding waves of intense energy and I was blown away at my own strength- this was my own body, after all. That power- was me.
Once everyone had themselves and their things together (her father, my mother and my best friend), I climbed out of the tub, donned a nightgown and we went out to the car. I almost panicked when I had to some how sit on the seat of the car- I could not physically sit. I did not realize at the time what that meant, how close to birth I really was. I reclined the seat as far back as it would go and managed to get myself in there. That hurt. Nothing thus far had hurt, but trying to sit in the car just felt so unnatural, so confined.
Then my attention turned to the morning sun, and I looked straight into it. I do not know where the inspiration to do that came from, but I was immediately bathed in the most soothing, warm comforting energy. I felt like the spirit of Sala was giving me a great big hug and taking my pain away. So I spent the entire car ride connecting with the solar rays. I was still quiet- the other occupants of the car could tell when the contractions came by the way my body moved and the way I breathed, but there was still none of the yelling and screaming generally associated with labor. Toward the end, I did bite down on a towel with the contractions. They still did not really “hurt”, but biting down just felt good, like I was channeling any extra energy my abdomen could not yet tolerate into that towel.
When we arrived at Baby Love, the birthing tub had already been filled for me. Those tubs- well, I would almost have a baby every day to be able to use those tubs. They are fabulous. My birthing suite had an underwater theme, complete with a wall mural and a beautiful tile backsplash- so the mer-folk took over protecting me once I was out of the sun’s rays.
At this point, I did not want anyone to touch me or talk to me. The contractions were very intense, but if I was undisturbed in my zone, they still did not hurt. Sam checked my dilation with the utmost sensitivity and respect and said to me, “No wonder you don’t want to be touched, you’re fully dilated. Just let me know when you feel like pushing”. That made me very happy- not even that I was so close to birthing, but that Sam was so kind and respectful. I could not imagine having someone TELL me to push when I was in that space…someone probably would’ve lost an eye.
I got into the tub, but I didn’t feel like pushing just yet. With a little help, I got into a comfortable position leaning on one side of the tub, closed my eyes and just focused. I believe I still had a biting towel. Biting felt good. After spending some time in the tub, I started to feel like pushing. Shortly thereafter, I encountered the only part of the process that really did genuinely hurt, and badly. I had prepared myself for anything from my ribcage down to my labia hurting- but this pain was unexpected. It was in my backside. I felt like my hole was going to rip open. I believe I yelled something that included expletives. My mother and the birth assistant both worked to talk me down and back into my calm space, and soon the pain passed and I could again focus on the job at hand.
I started to push. At first with a little uncertainty. My membranes ruptured right as I started pushing, though I barely noticed. The birth assistant seemed a little unsure as to how close I was, because of the way I was breathing through my contractions. Only the peak of them was obvious to those around me, so they seemed short. I felt my daughter’s head descending, and it felt amazing! I could feel every sensation as she passed each part of me internally. It wasn’t painful, it felt awesome! I cannot even describe that feeling. I loved it. I pushed her head out easily with no pain in my perineum (I thank the water for that).
Then my brain, which had been shut off hours prior, kicked into overdrive. I had a million thoughts all at once- all based around the logistics of there being a tiny head protruding from my vagina, and where that head was in relation to the bottom of the tub. I exclaimed “Her head’s out! WHAT DO I DO NOW?!’. In hindsight, I find that hilarious. I was so quiet through my labor, and when something finally came out my mouth- it was that! My midwife calmly told me to just keep doing what I was doing and, sure enough, in 2 more pushes my baby girl was out.
She was just amazing. She still is. I held her while her cord finished up pulsing, and I was just in love. In awe of her, of how beautiful labor was, of how good pushing felt. Of the whole thing. Her father was invited into the room to cut the cord once it had done its job. The chronology of the rest of the morning is a little fuzzy to me. I guess I can thank post-partum hormones for that. The placenta came not long after, and I remember being surprised how large it felt. I had thought that after pushing an almost 8 lb. baby out, that a 1 lb. placenta would glide right on out.
I got out of the tub and onto the bed, and I remember Sam being a little unhappy with how much I was bleeding. Either her or the assistant (I honestly cannot recall) gave me a small cup with herbs and honey in it for the bleeding, and I guess that took care of it because it wasn’t mentioned again. I nursed her in that bed, then we rested. The whole thing was just amazing.
She was born at 11.23am, 7lbs, 14oz and 19″ long.
I was so inspired by the whole experience that not only would I love to have more children, but I am looking into a career in midwifery. I am so inspired by birth. It is an amazing process, and I am grateful I got to experience it the way nature intended.