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One Mama’s Birth Without Fear Tattoo

One Mama’s Birth Without Fear Tattoo

By Simone Burton

I actually forgot to share this when I got it back in 2013.

I had my first son when I was 18, and I was scared out of my brain to give birth, until an amazing friend of mine showed me her birth video and she completely changed my view on birth.

Not long after I found Birth Without Fear, and my mind was set. I was going to have a drug free natural birth, and after months and months of countless different doctors and midwives telling me I couldn’t because I was “too young.” (??)

I had my son on the 9th of Feb 2013, born en caul naturally in the water. I had the support of my hubby and my midwives to get me through it. I had the support of this page and the power of my mind, that there was nothing to be afraid of.

My second son was born in July last year, and I really saw the power of the mind then. I couldn’t lock my brain my birth zone and I struggled terribly. I managed to have another natural drug free birth, and I was defeated for a few days with how I acted, until my midwife kicked my butt and told me to kick that labour’s ass with the next one.

Birth Without Fear continues to inspire me and is a big drive in my life. I can still hear my husband whispering “what do you have tattooed on your ribs?” while I was in labour with my second.

Thank you so much January, you have seriously brought a very strong woman out of me, that I NEVER knew existed in me.

Beautiful Hospital Birth From a Mother’s Eyes

Beautiful Hospital Birth From a Mother’s Eyes

February 1, 2014: That tiny internet cheapie pregnancy test finally showed two faint lines. I mean barely see it, squint your eyes and pretend it’s there type of faint. Suddenly, disbelief became my emotion. How could I tell Tyler I was finally pregnant, after just shy of a year since we began trying to conceive, if I wasn’t even 100% the test was positive? I kept quiet and waited for Tyler to go to bed, knowing good well I should just wait and test again in the morning. Emotions took control over me and I whipped out the expensive store bought pregnancy test that had been hiding under my bathroom sink just waiting for this defining moment. So, I took the test and waited. Before the time had elapsed, I looked at that stick and thought no way is this happening. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we wanted this, we had been praying for this moment, but after peeing on what felt like hundreds of sticks, you start to think it will never happen. Of course, I shared the news with Tyler and we each went through extreme ranges of emotions, ending in cautious excitement.

Approximately 7 weeks pregnant: The day finally arrived to go to our OB appointment and confirm that we are actually pregnant! Seeing that tiny little bean on the ultrasound broke me in the most beautiful way possible. I was carrying a tiny human! A tiny human that I had to nourish and protect. A tiny human that I had no control over, because after all it’s in God’s hands.

16-20 weeks pregnant: My phone rings while I am at work, I look down and see it’s the OB calling. I hesitantly answer, wondering why they would be calling; not thinking it may be the results from our downs syndrome screening. It was the nurse on the other end, who informed me that we were high risk for downs syndrome and would be referred to a specialist. Two weeks later, I found myself sitting in the parking lot at this new and strange office. As I was waiting to go in, Bring the Rain by Mercy Me came on the radio. I lost it! All I could do was pray and remind myself that no matter what this doctor said, no matter the outcome of any tests, I had a miracle growing inside of me, and I would remain strong for this baby. Then the hard part came, getting out of the car and making it in to the waiting room to see a specialist. How did such a beautiful miracle end up with us sitting in this waiting room, leaving us feeling alone and afraid of the unknown. Now we knew regardless what the results were, that we would love this baby unconditionally. We were finally called back to ultrasound, to take more in depth measurements of our little pumpkin and then to meet with the doctor. We left this appointment feeling a little more positive, since the ultrasound showed no markers that were of concern. A couple of weeks after this appointment, we got a phone call saying that the blood test was negative and we could just about rule out downs syndrome. I hung up the phone praising God and realizing that everything happens for a reason. Never doubt God, even though we felt very much alone, He was always there.

20-34 weeks pregnant: Other than morning sickness since about 8 weeks, everything seemed to be going smoothly at this point. We found out we were having a little girl and anxiously awaited the arrival of little Lana.

34 weeks pregnant: I went in for my regular 2 week check at the OB. However, the appointment was a little different. My heart rate was way above my normal. My heart rate was in the 150’s, which I had consistently been in the 70’s this entire pregnancy. This scare ended in blood work and a referral to the cardiologist, where they did an echocardiogram, EKG and a 24 hour holter monitor. After the testing, I was put on a beta blocker to control my heart rate and vitamins to help with severe anemia. I was also taken out of work to rest and allow my blood volume to hopefully increase before delivery.

37 weeks pregnant: At this point, I went in to the “it could happen anytime now” mindset. After a few days of that thinking, I kindly reminded myself, that it could also happen at 42 weeks, so I decided to try and enjoy these last few days/weeks, instead of focusing on it as a countdown.

October 10, 2014: It’s officially our estimated delivery date! I went with my mom to get pedicures as kind of a celebration that we made it! I was secretly hoping the foot massage would put me in to labor. Nope. Our estimated date came and went.

October 11 – October 19, 2014: Patience is a virtue, right? I had my rough moments, but I was prepared for the long haul (42 weeks). I kept reminding myself that I would let my baby choose her birthdate. If there is no medical reason to be induced, then why do it? The more days that passed, the tougher it got to handle the comments about why I haven’t been induced or the recommendations on what I should do to go in to labor. I had several episodes of false labor, which can totally mess with your mind. With each back ache, stomach cramp or strange feeling, I thought could this be it? We continued to wait.

October 15, 2014: I went to my appointment with my OB. I was a beautiful, swollen, 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant woman. Everything checked out fine and we scheduled my next appointment for October 20th at 3:15pm to discuss our induction plan, which would be set up if I did not go in to labor by 42 weeks (10/24/14).

October 16, 2014: My mom and I went on several walks just to keep me moving and help ready my body for labor….if it would ever start! I began showing a few signs that labor would begin…at some point.

October 19, 2014: I literally had come to the point where I thought I would never have this baby. Could I be pregnant forever? Surely, no one has been pregnant forever. I talked to our doula and we decided to chat before I went to my appointment the next afternoon, just to put me at ease and prepare me for the induction conversation. This was an appointment that I was absolutely stressing over!

October 20, 2014 (41 weeks, 3 days pregnant): I hadn’t been able to sleep for weeks now. I would stay up until 4am or so wide awake! Sometime after midnight, I decided to update the chalk board in our kitchen to say “Welcome Lana” because she would eventually be joining us…I think.

3am- I decided to get a bath and see if that would help relax me enough to go to sleep. This had become a normal nightly, well early morning routine. I started feeling those achy back pains, which I had been feeling for a week or so now. All I could think was seriously, I am so tired of this, why can’t I just have this baby already. I was dreading the appointment that I would no doubt be going to later in the day. I was trying to prepare myself, knowing I would end up being induced and that my desire for a natural/med free birth was slowly slipping away. As I got out of the bath, the achy back had turned in to cramping. Hmmm…definitely not labor, because I am never having this baby…I will be pregnant forever.

5am- I finally get my very pregnant self into bed. I am lying on my side, because at this point, it’s the only option left. The back pain had picked up in intensity. The thought of it being early labor flickered in my mind. I thought I would try to sleep just in case labor was really starting. After laying there realizing this achy sensation was becoming more intense and cramps had really started to pick up, all I could do was rock back and forth while lying in bed. I wanted sleep to come, but it was nowhere in sight, so I rocked to keep myself comfortable.

7am- Tyler begins getting ready for work. I tell him how I am feeling, but encourage him to finish getting ready and go to work, because I doubt this is labor. I told him if it ended up being labor he could just come back home, but don’t waste a vacation day for nothing.

8am- I text my mom and tell her how I have been feeling. She offered to come over to the house and be with me. I debated whether she should really waste her time coming over and decided that whatever was happening to my body was not slowing down and definitely not stopping, so I wouldn’t mind the company. Mom showed up within probably 20 minutes. When she got to the house, I was bent over on the couch with crazy back pain. She asked if it was mild, moderate or intense. My response was it hurt like sh**. I was still in denial that this was labor. Shouldn’t I be feeling contractions? Heck, how would I know if it was a contraction or not? What does a contraction even feel like? All of these questions flooded my tired mind. I figured since whatever was happening was picking up, we would take a walk to see if it would continue. As we are walking around my street, I am doubling over with back pain. It was surreal. Knowing my neighbors may very well be watching me, all while having no care in the world. It was a beautiful moment, to be outside, the sun beaming down on me and preparing to birth my daughter.

10am- Lisa (our amazing doula) arrives at the house. Honestly, I don’t know what time I contacted her or what I even said. All I knew was Lisa was at the house and my mind kept thinking, “I hope she did not come all the way over here for nothing.” I remember at some point shortly after Lisa arrived, that she said this seemed to be the real deal! I remained cautious; thinking this probably really isn’t labor. But that back pain was constant and I felt everything getting tight. Lisa worked with me and did a few different positions during contractions to see if we could alleviate the back pain some. We walked up and down the street and all around the living room. I received countless back massages that really helped me to keep going. It eased the back pain and allowed me to stay in my own little world. I was almost enjoying the pain at this point. I knew my body was doing exactly what it was supposed to. I was in my own world, some type of trance, a birth high. Whether I was or not, I felt quiet and private, empowered and beautiful, strong and powerful. I really had no idea what to expect labor to be like, but this definitely was not it. My eyes remained closed through most of it and I did whatever my body told me to do. Again, I found this pain to be tolerable and amazingly beautiful. I was falling in love.

11am- Tyler came home from work because this was really labor! I continued to follow my body’s cues on what to do. Lisa made suggestions which I believe aided in helping things continue to progress. I walked around the back yard, leaned on my husband, took a bath and did lunges on the stairs. While in the bath, the song Oceans by United played. I relaxed and just silently talked to God. All I could really manage to say was “it’s in your hands.” Through the intense moments, I actually found myself loving this. I wanted it to keep going. I wanted it to become more intense. I wanted my baby girl in my arms.

1:45pm- Our photographer (Heather Dimsdale) came to the house to take a few photos before Lisa said it was time we make our trip to the hospital. I was so thankful knowing that she came to our home, to give us permanent memories of such an intimate time.

2pm- We load up in the car. It took me a few minutes to get from the living room to the garage. These contractions were coming closer and closer together, increasing in intensity. Contractions in the car picked up even more! I never knew a car ride could be so intense. As we were turning towards the on ramp for the interstate, I had my first moment. I yelled at Tyler, not in a hateful way, but in an intense tone, I just told him he could slow down a bit. I just wanted to be in my zone again, alone and by myself, and out of this car. I did my best to focus, stay within myself, and allow my body to open.

2:40pm- Finally, we arrived to the hospital and made it through admissions. I leaned against the chair in the admissions office, signing paperwork between contractions. Thank goodness I preregistered, so it was a quick process. A nurse came to get me with a wheelchair, which I refused, because my mind kept thinking, as long as I keep moving, this baby is coming down. Truthfully, I didn’t think I could sit at this moment. I remember passing my OB who was sitting at the nurses station. He asked how I was doing and I managed thumbs up. I felt amazing, like I’ve made it. I labored at home! We continued the walk to my room, pausing for contractions in the hall way.

3pm- Made it to the room! My OB wanted to get a quick monitor before allowing me to be unhooked from the IV and baby heart rate/contraction monitors. He checked me at 7cm! I had done it; I had almost made it to transition! After being unhooked, I walked the room, leaning on whatever was available during contractions, bed, sink, railing, and people. I feel like a lot of the time laboring in the hospital was spent sitting on the toilet. It was the most comfortable place to sit. I was able to feel my body opening and could lean forward during contractions. Someone was constantly massaging my lower back with coconut oil and I felt amazing. I had almost done this! With each contraction becoming more intense, I became more vocal, making a moaning/humming noise with each exhale. I think I also chanted “almost there” or “I am doing it.” My mom and Lisa would reinforce my statements, saying “you are doing it.”

4pm (or something close to it) – My OB came back in the room to check me again….9cm! It’s almost time to push! My OB said he had to leave at 5pm. Part of me wanted to panic, I wanted him to deliver this baby. He knew my plan, he knows me. He offered to break my water and said I could possibly deliver before 5pm, if not it would be the on call OB. I declined, knowing the pain would be more intense if my water was broken. I didn’t want any interventions, my water remained intact and my body was doing its job. He told me who the on call OB was and said he would bring her up so I could meet her before delivery. They began to bring tables in the room and ready everything for delivery. Lisa said this means you’re very close; see they are getting everything ready. I tried to remain in my world, away from all of this. While we waited, Lisa suggested squatting and leaning on the head of the bed. It felt awkward being so pregnant climbing up in bed to squat. We finally got situated and I thought I might be feeling an urge to push. Again, so unsure? What’s “the urge” supposed to feel like? I tried to relax and remind myself that my body was designed for this and I would know when it was time to push.

4:40pm (or something close to it) – Things became very intense. I yelled “oh, my butt!” That was the only statement I could make that described how I felt. So, this is what the “urge” feels like. Within seconds, my water broke and the pressure became so intense. Is she almost here? The room filled with people. Through the intensity, I heard Lisa asking me if I wanted her to coach me through pushing….ummm…yes! I have no idea how to do this! Her look was so comforting, so reassuring. I felt extremely vulnerable and was so thankful she was there. A brief thought crossed my mind that I could not handle this. As soon as that thought entered, I remembered that when you feel like giving up, that’s the moment you need to keep going. I prepared myself and tried pushing while still in that squatting position. The pressure was so intense; I was trying to stand instead of staying squatted. My OB in a kind, but firm voice said, “Britney, you cannot keep doing that, every time you do, you are closing your pelvis.” With those words, I flipped over on to my back and began pushing with all my strength. I reached down and felt a head full of beautiful hair. That feeling was all I needed; I knew our little miracle would be here very soon. I set it in my mind that when I felt like pushing, I would push with all my might. My body knew what it was doing.

4:55pm- After less than 10 minutes of pushing, Lana Faye was born. The cord was wrapped twice around her neck, but after it was unwrapped, she began crying and was immediately placed on my chest. I had done it, we had done it! Our little miracle had finally made it!

I still am in awe at all that my body went through. I desired a natural, med-free birth and by listening to my body, trusting God and having an amazing birth team with me, I was able to have a beautiful birth.

I want to thank my husband for his support from day 1! His love through the entire process was unconditional. He was quiet during labor and delivery, but so helpful. He was my rock.

My mom for being a sweet reminder that I was doing this! Until my mom arrived at my house that morning, I wasn’t sure I wanted her in the delivery room. Nothing against her, I just thought it would be awkward. Now, I couldn’t have imagined doing it without her. Mom, I love you!

My OB, for supporting me and allowing my body to do things naturally and not rush in to unnecessary interventions. He truly listened to me and encouraged me to achieve this birth.

To Lisa, who gave incredible support from the day she became our doula. She gave advice, without ever being pushy or judgmental. Lisa, I could not imagine going through pregnancy, labor, and delivery without your knowledge.

Our L&D nurses, thank you for being supportive of our decision for a med-free birth. The experience you all provided was exactly what I had dreamt of.

Our nursery nurses, thank you for sharing your knowledge with us as first time parents. The first night in the hospital we had a scare with her choking, as a new mommy, I was so thankful for your quick responses and for reassuring us that everything was ok.

Our postpartum nurses, thank you for allowing us to have time alone with our daughter to bond in the first days. Your courtesy in allowing me to recover and bond as a new family should not go unnoticed.

And to our lovely photographer, Heather. She followed our story, from our birth announcement photo shoot through the end of pregnancy, and those first moments with our daughter. We have documentation of the most intense and joyful moments of our lives. Tears, smiles, laughter, and some pretty intense faces were all captured for us to cherish for years to come.

I love you guys and could not have done it without each one of you.

To my daughter, you are more than worth the labor of love that I endured for you. I would do it over and over again, just to have you in my arms. I couldn’t have done it without you either baby girl. You were so strong. Our bodies worked together for you to arrive on your chosen birthdate. Mommy loves you!

Story submitted by Britney A.

Photographs by Heather Dimsdale of Two Little Loves Studio

Focusing Through the Ring of Fire: An Unmedicated, Natural Birth

Focusing Through the Ring of Fire: An Unmedicated, Natural Birth

My husband Chris and I made the decision on having a natural unmedicated birth after watching the documentary “Business of Being Born”. Being the planner that I am, we prepared for our estimated due date, September 21st, for months.  Chris and I were both very determined! Unquestionably, I knew I could do it, despite the doubting comments I’d been receiving from a few close friends and family. I was excited and anxious for the day to finally come, so that I could not only prove them wrong, but to also meet our munchkin and finally find out the gender.

EARLY LABOR?

On September 11th, I was FaceTiming my family at 12 PM JST (we live in Japan), happily bouncing away on my exercise ball. As I was talking to my mom, I felt my belly tighten up. In fact, it was a feeling I had felt many times before, however, that time was different. Unusually, it lasted for about a minute with very mild cramping, so I knew it was different than a Braxton Hicks. However, I chose to ignore it and went about my day, in fear of getting my hopes up.

Later that night, I went to the bathroom before heading to bed. As usual, I checked the toilet paper after I wiped in the hopes I would see something out of the ordinary. I was so anxious for any sign that would indicate our baby was coming soon. Granted, I did see something I didn’t see at all my entire pregnancy: My mucus plug! Yet, I was still skeptical, since there was no blood. With the thought of early labor being too good to be true, I decided to ignore that sign as well.

After a few hours later, I woke up at 2 AM to use the bathroom, and noticed more of my mucus plug, except this time there was a tinge of pink blood! At that point, I began to feel a little hopeful. Of course, it was hard to fall back to sleep, so I searched for forums of other moms who’d experienced the same thing; Desperately wanting to read they ended up going into labor. Guess what? Most of those mothers went into labor within the next 24 hours after losing their mucus plug and experiencing the “bloody show!”

By 5 AM, I began feeling more tightening of my abdomen, in addition to period like cramps that would come and go. Curiously, I decided to start timing them, but unfortunately noticed they weren’t consistent. For this reason, I decided not to tell Chris anything after he woke up for work at 6 AM; trying to avoid him becoming disappointed if I truly wasn’t going into labor. Obviously, I still wasn’t fully convinced.

CONVINCED! EARLY LABOR!

Between 6 AM and noon, I attempted taking a nap, but kept waking up from stronger “cramps”. Since taking a nap seemed impossible, I decided to call my mother to tell her everything that was leading me to think I was in early labor. With a tad bit of worriment in her voice, she assured me I was, and told me I would have our baby very soon. Thanks to my mom, I finally came to accept that I was indeed in early labor. Especially since my contractions were happening every 5 mins!

After hanging up with my mother, I called Chris right away and told him he needed to come home ASAP because we were going to have our baby very soon. Thankfully, he left work immediately. In the meantime, I  paced back and forth in my house and bounced on an exercise ball so my contractions wouldn’t go away. As soon as he got home, I called the hospital, and they instructed me to start heading there when my contractions were 3 mins apart and I was incapable of walking or talking through them. Immediately after hanging up, I timed them and realized they were 2-3 minutes apart! Although my contractions were still bearable, they were very painful.

HOSPITAL TIME

Around 2 PM, we started heading towards the hospital, but stopped at Subway first, since I was told they wouldn’t let me eat anything aside from ice chips after being admitted. Oh my goodness, was it hard to eat my sub due to having to take small bites in between each contraction. First time it had ever taken me that long to eat in my entire life!

As soon as I got to the Mother Infant Care Center, a nurse took me to triage for monitoring and to check if I was dilated. The nurse confirmed I was in fact having very strong contractions, very close together, but I was ONLY 3cm dilated! It turns out because we live about 30 mins away from the hospital they asked me NOT to go home. Instead, they advised me to walk around for two hours and go back to be checked for progression.

Chris asked me if we could go to the barbershop so he could get a haircut. Honestly, I thought I could handle it, so we did. Geez, what a bad idea! I got lots of worried looks while I paced back and forth in front of the barber, as I deeply hummed through each contraction. Can you believe how difficult it was to focus on my breathing knowing I was being stared at? For this reason, my contractions were becoming more and more painful. As soon as Chris walked out of the barber, I urged for us to go back to the hospital because at that point I could not handle walking or talking. Clinging onto Chris’s neck with my arms and swaying my hips side to side during each contraction and then quickly walking when it stopped was the only way we made it back to the car.

Thankfully, we made it back to the hospital and walked for the remaining time in the hallways. If I’m not mistaken, the pain got much worse during those two hours, which led me to think I had to be at least 6cm dilated. At around 6 pm, we walked back, the nurse hooked me back onto the monitors and shortly after, she checked to see if I was making any progress. The nurse told me, yes, my contractions were stronger, but I only progressed to 3 1/2cm. Discouraged is the best word to explain how I felt at that moment. In that moment, I desperately wanted to go home so I could sit in my tub full of hot water to help me through the pain. Unfortunately, they advised me to walk around for another TWO hours so the nurse could check me again for progression.

THE WAITING GAME- ACTIVE LABOR

For the most part, those two hours were a complete blur to me. Honestly, the pain was something I swore I never wanted to experience again. All I could do for the entire two hours was breath and pace down the hospital corridor with Chris by my side, encouraging me to breathe through each contraction. So I continued to remind myself during each contraction that I’d shortly be getting a break and each contraction was just a step closer to meeting our baby.

Two hours later, we walked into Mother Infant Care Center, this time only to be checked for dilation. The nurse looked at me and told me “I’m sorry, but you are only at a 4…” A huge sense of doubt came over me that I didn’t even care what else she had to say. Sadly, we ended up being sent home.

LABORING AT HOME

In a nutshell, I labored all night at home; alternating between- laying in the bathtub filled with hot water, to bouncing, hugging and rolling on the medicine ball, and listened to my hypnobirthing DVD. The DVD helped me focus through the pain I was feeling and reminded me of everything we learned and practiced in our Hypnobirthing class. I’m not going to lie, I was so afraid I would have our baby in the house. So I called the hospital at 3 AM to see if I should go in, but the nurse on the phone instructed me to labor as long as I could at home and to come in the morning. I stayed up all night doing anything possible to help me stay focused and calm. As soon as the clock hit 7 AM, I woke Chris up and we got ready and headed to the hospital.

ADMITTED

When we arrived at the hospital the nurse took me straight to triage, checked me… AND THANK GOD I WAS AT A 6! They asked me if I wanted an epidural and I told them I wasn’t sure. Unfortunately, I was in so much pain I didn’t know how much longer I could take. Out of standard procedure, the anesthesiologist came into triage and discussed the risks of getting an epidural with us. Still unsure, I asked her to give me more time to think about it, so she told me to ask for it whenever I was ready. Chris and I looked at each other, and he lovingly reminded me why we wanted to go natural and helped me remember the pain would go away as soon as I had our baby. Thanks to him, I agreed and decided to stick it out longer.

Soon after, I was admitted into my room at around 8 AM. Chris provided them with our birth plan and went through it with our Midwife and the staff. The heparin lock was placed in case of emergency, and I was intermittently monitored throughout my entire labor, which allowed me as much mobility as I needed. They dimmed the lights and spoke softly just as I’d asked. Between the times of 8 AM to 6 PM, I labored on and off the bed, on the exercise ball they provided, and in and out the shower. Believe it or not, I managed to stay very calm during each contraction by humming through them and switching positions as often as I could.

TRANSITION PHASE

It wasn’t until 6 PM that I started to doubt myself again, lost focus of each contraction and started to wonder how much longer it was going to take. Fear swept through me and I felt like it was never going to end. While I labored in the shower, I turned to Chris with a face of defeat and told him I wanted the epidural. I’ll never forget how he stared right back at me with so much love, and let me know I was the strongest women he has ever met and there was no doubt in his mind I could do it. That’s all I needed in that very moment, he believed in me, so I had to keep pushing!

Deep down I needed some reassurance I was progressing, so I asked him to call the nurse so she could check and confirm I was in the transitioning phase of labor. Sure enough, I was 7cm dilated. In that moment I remember hearing the pain wouldn’t get any more painful after 7 cm and I would have our baby very soon. Shortly after, the nurse spoke to the midwife and they came into the conclusion I wasn’t progressing fast enough. They gave me two options: Have them break my waters or give me one more hour. With the intention of letting my body naturally go through the process of labor, I asked them to please give me one more hour. Thankfully, the midwife granted my wish.

SURRENDING TO THE CONTRACTIONS

Honestly, I don’t remember ANY pain within that hour, and I was no longer moaning, humming or grunting between the contractions. As a matter of fact, I surrendered myself to each surge (contraction) and finally let my body do what it needed to do instead of fighting it. There I sat Indian style on the hospital bed peacefully breathing in and out, in and out, envisioning my baby moving down. Something I learned in my hypnobirthing class and wish I had done from the very beginning.

THE URGE TO PUSH

A little over an hour later, the nurse came in to check me once again, told me I was doing amazing and had progressed to a 9 ½. Needless to say, I felt so empowered and I knew I would make it till the very end. Ten minutes after the nurse left the room, I began to feel so much pressure and an urge to push (a feeling like having to go # 2 lol), so  I decided to listen to my body and lightly pushed and pushed. It wasn’t long until I asked the new nurse to check me because I had a feeling I was going to have the baby very soon. So she did and told me I still wasn’t fully dilated. Even though I was having the urge to push she advised me to wait, however, I chose to listen to my body instead.

I was laying on my side on the hospital bed, working with my body with each surge that would come. Chris was by my side the entire time reminding me how strong I was and how much he loved me. Shortly after pushing a few times, I felt something odd in between my legs, so I lifted up my leg and felt myself down under! With a look of confusion on my face I told the nurse: “I feel the water bag!” She looked at me in shock and asked me what I meant. Then instructed me to lay down on my back so she could take a look. Sure enough, our baby was coming!

DELIVERING OUR BABY

Surprisingly my bags were still intact! Everything happened so quickly after that. My nurse asked me if I’d like to change positions so gravity could help our little one come out. I agreed, so I slowly went from my elbow and knees to my hands and knees on the hospital bed, while Chris applied pressure on my lower back to relieve my back pains.

Our nurse suggested a more comfortable position and brought up the back of the bed so I could rest my arms on it. Such an excellent idea! Chris continued to encourage me to keep lightly pushing and focus on my breathing.

All of a sudden, I pushed and his head began to crown! Yes, I clearly remember placing my hand down there and feeling his head. My water broke and I didn’t even realize it. I panicked and started to scream. The “ring of fire” was indeed no joke my friends! Chris quickly calmed me down and reminded me to focus on my breathing.

Only a few minutes later, I felt our baby come out and Chris announced: “It’s a boy!”. Luckily my umbilical cord was long because I flung around so fast to see our baby, completely forgetting about it!  A sudden burst of energy, emotions, and a natural high took over my body as I reached out and grabbed our baby. Time stood still holding him in my arms for the very first time as we stared at his beautiful little face.  He looked so peaceful and barely cried. Those first few whimpers were music to my ears. I remember looking at him and saying “Hi Jayce! Welcome to the world baby boy.”  It was hard to believe he was finally in my arms after 38 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy and 31 hours of labor. In that moment I knew it was so worth it and would gladly do it 1000 times if I had to.

Chris did the honors of cutting the umbilical cord after it stopped pulsing. Shortly after, he held our son for the first time. My heart melted as I watched the man of my dreams hold our baby and stare at each other with so much love. 

From then on, our lives have never been the same. Thanks to him, we now have a new profound meaning of love. Welcome to the world Jayce. We love you so much.

Side Note: Yes, having an un-medicated birth was difficult, but it was the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had. Again, I would do it again 1000 times if I had to. Bringing Jayce into the world was the most rewarding and one of the happiest moments of my life. I can’t thank God enough for a loving, motivating, supportive husband, a healthy beautiful baby boy and for such a great hospital staff who respected and also helped me have the labor I envisioned and hoped for.

If you’re pregnant and want to achieve a natural – unmedicated birth, I am here to tell you- YOU CAN DO IT! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or just need some encouragement. I’d be more than happy to be there for you. 

Birth story submitted by Michelle R.

Photographs by Deirdre Leigh.

A Photographer’s First Natural Water Birth

A Photographer’s First Natural Water Birth

It was a cold, December afternoon when the miracle of yet another beautiful soul coming to the world had happened.

The birth of Raphael was a debut both for Betânia and Fred as parents and for me as a photographer. I am completely honoured to have been a part of such an incredibly emotional, miraculous celebration of life.

It was around four in the morning, when Fred in his usual calm and positive manner, had called us to say that Raphael had decided to come into the world. With all our gear prepared we rushed to the clinic, and we must confess that we seemed more nervous than the couple who was very in control, and mentally and physically prepared to what was about to happen.

The new parents decided to have Raphael delivered in water, and they also made sure that the ambient was labour-friendly with calmly lit candles, soothing aromas and relaxing music in the background. Betânia had all the help and assistance she needed throughout the journey. It wasn´t an easy one, but the new mom was powerful, courageous and laboured beautifully, with such peace and grace that one could admire the strength and power nature gives to a woman that is about to meet her child for the first time.

Fred was always by Betânia’s side being very supportive and making sure his wife had all the comfort she needed. It was wonderful to watch the two in such a perfect union and harmony- once again love prevailed over pain and suffering.

It was 14:16 when Raphael decided to finally abandon the comfort zone and meet the world and his happy parents for the very first time, and it was without an inch of doubt one of the most remarkable moments I have ever lived and had the pleasure to photograph.

After the first exchange of glances between Raphael and his parents, the doula let the baby stay on Betânia’s chest for some skin to skin, mother and child beautiful bonding…These were utterly miraculous, unique and candid moments that I have been so fortunate to live and document. Our sincerest congratulations go out to amazing Betânia and Fred, who brought sweet Raphael into the world in such a gentle and loving way. It was my greatest honour to have been part of their incredible journey.

Birth Story and photos submitted by Maria Niezgoda Azanha.

One Giant Push Without Pain Meds: “He’s Coming!”

One Giant Push Without Pain Meds: “He’s Coming!”

I am once again reminded that nothing is gained by worrying. I was more anxious about this birth than the others. But this baby is our New Hope. I kept reminding myself throughout pregnancy that my hope comes from the Lord. That He is in control. As induction drew nearer I found more things to worry about. Labor and delivery has never worked out exactly according to our plan, but each of our births have been so empowering and a reminder of God’s providence. I had to believe this one would be no different.

new hope, hospital birth, birth without fear

I keep thinking about how well everything went. I had regular contractions for days, thinking that I would be going into spontaneous labor before our scheduled induction date. Because of those contractions I stopped taking the Lovanox shots earlier than anticipated, per doctor’s orders. But labor never truly began. On Sunday morning, the day before my scheduled induction, I called Dr. G to ask what to do since I had been off the shots for four days already. He advised to go into labor and delivery to get checked and see about starting my induction early.

Once we got there they checked me and I was 4cm dilated! Those contractions had been making progress. I was taken to a room to start the induction. Our baby was coming. Excitement filled the room.

I didn’t start the induction with my drug of choice because I was too far dilated already, but instead went straight to the dreaded Pitocin. Pitocin got the contractions going but I could still easily talk through them. Contractions got to every 2 to 3 minutes, but they didn’t feel like they were doing much. This was not at all what I expected from Pitocin.

My friend, S, became my labor and delivery nurse at the shift change, 2 1/2 hours into the induction. Had we waited until Monday, my scheduled date, she wouldn’t have been there. She didn’t have any other patients during my labor so she was with me the entire time. She was my midwife. She was my doula. She advocated for me. She believed in me. She was amazing.

After talking over the risks and benefits of breaking my water with S, and seeing how labor wasn’t really progressing, we made the decision to go ahead with it. It sounded like it would make my body do more of the natural labor things by releasing the prostaglandins and inducing stronger contractions. Breaking my water wasn’t part of my plan, but it was definitely the right thing. I was still at 4cm when they checked just before breaking the water, over three hours after the start of the induction. It almost immediately made the contractions more intense. I could no longer talk through them. And at that point I just pretended it was natural labor. I was hooked to the IV and Electronic Fetal Monitoring the whole time, but I moved around as much as I wanted to, which wasn’t farther than the side of the bed.

Just after breaking my water, the anesthesiologist came in to discuss epidurals, or whatever it is they have to talk to each patient about. S asked him to come back later so she could help me clean up a little first. The doctor said that I may be asking for him soon though since she just broke my water. S responded, “No she won’t.” Love her! I suggested we push this baby out before he had a chance to come back.

The Hubby was amazing. He is the best labor partner I could ever ask for. He jumps at every opportunity to help and support me, to comfort me, to encourage me. He asks all the right questions when I forget to. He remembers the things that we need to be mindful of during and after labor. He knows me so well, he turns on the right music, reminds me of my birth affirmations, and offers other comfort measures at exactly the right times.

Sometime during this intense labor I looked at the clock and told Hubby we were having this baby before midnight. Baby Skywalker would share a birthday with my mom. As I stood next to the bed I started to feel pushy. I said he was going to come soon. S called the doc back in to check dilation. S and Hubby helped me on the bed. The doc checked and I was at 8cm. No sooner had she left the room than I yelled, “He’s coming!” The pediatric nurse ran across the room and caught him. I think he came out with one giant push. I pushed his head out and it felt like his body just slipped out behind.

I can’t believe it was so fast. Four and a half hours from the start of the Pitocin drip. I can’t believe I did it without pain meds. I can’t believe I got the natural feeling birth I wanted with an induction in a high risk pregnancy. I didn’t even have issues with the placenta. It was out within 10 minutes of birth, and with a history of retained placenta, that was an amazing feat. This birth that had me so worried was empowering.

birth without fear, new hope

We had uninterrupted skin-to-skin time for the first hour. It was amazing. I hadn’t expected that much time with him in the hospital setting. After 30 minutes of laying on my chest, he pushed himself up, leaned over, and landed directly on my nipple and started nursing like he knew what he was doing. I had heard of the breast crawl, but didn’t experience it with my girls. The nurses waited until he took a break from nursing before they moved him to the warming table to check his weight and other vitals they didn’t do while he was on my chest. They quickly returned him to me and he nursed some more.

I was totally comfortable in the hospital environment, which I didn’t expect. I labored how I wanted to, how my body needed to. I made a LOT of noise! But I warned them ahead of time that I’m a loud laborer. We talked about our options for pain meds at the very beginning, but I had also requested that they not ask me during labor if I wanted pain meds, that I would let them know if I needed them, and they respected that. I never did see that anesthesiologist again.

Baby Skywalker has been a very sleepy baby. He has awake moments too, but he is very calm and just looks around. After four days of painful engorgement, things are started to even out and he is nursing like a champ. He is a joy to have in our family. He is a great reminder to keep our hope in the Lord. To trust that He has everything under control. His Plan is always the perfect plan. Even when we don’t know what will come next.

Stats: Born December 4, 2016 at 8:58pm. 7lbs 7oz, 20″ long.

birth without fear, new hope

Originally published by Rebekah R. on A Pastorale.

Eloise’s Birth Story: Finding Healing & Hope

Eloise’s Birth Story: Finding Healing & Hope

By the time I became pregnant with my second child, I knew the kind of birth I wanted. I had spent most of my life hating my body. For not being thin enough. For not being pretty enough. For not being good enough. I hated my body for its infertility and, most of all, for the miscarriage that I had suffered when we first started trying to conceive another baby. My first birth, an induced birth in a hospital with an epidural that gave me my beautiful first daughter, was nothing short of lovely. Though the induced labor was hard, everything went according to plan and I had no complaints or regrets. It was the perfect thing for me at the time.

But for my second, I knew I wanted more. I had heard talk of how wonderful it was to give birth naturally, without medicated pain relief. How empowering. How profound and transformative. Every birth has the power to do that. My first transformed me, certainly. But with my second chance, I yearned for a deeper, more transcendent experience. And so a natural birth, one without an epidural or any other intervention of the sort, was written into my birth plan.

And then, two days past her due date, my precious, unborn baby girl turned breech. And I was suddenly, between my sobs, signing papers to agree to a c-section because no doctor that I knew of would deliver a breech baby vaginally. And then a day later, on the morning of my scheduled c-section, my baby flipped again and suddenly I was begging to be induced. Another induction was not what I wanted and, in retrospect, perhaps I should have just waited for labor to begin, but I was scared. I was scared my baby would flip again and that would be that. I would have to have that baby cut out of me. A c-section scared me more than anything else and so we went forth with the induction.

It was a cool, overcast October day in 2013 when we dropped my daughter Sydney off at a friend’s house and drove the few miles to the hospital. It was my mom, my husband and I in the car and we arrived for the induction fifteen minutes late. We were out of breath, anxious, nervous, and excited. We had been waiting for this day to come for a very long time. And still, we waited some more. In fact, we spent the next eight hours waiting. Waiting to be checked in and taken to our room. Waiting to complete all the admission questions. Waiting through an hour of fetal monitoring. Waiting for my blood work to come back and my urine to be tested. Waiting for the doctor (not my OB, but one of his partners) to do an ultrasound. (The baby was still head-down, thankfully.) Waiting for my first dose of Cytotec to ripen my cervix (which I did not even get until 11 a.m. though I arrived just after 8 a.m.). Waiting through more fetal monitoring. Waiting for contractions to start. Waiting for them to get stronger and closer together. The waiting was endless.

Around 4 p.m., the few contractions I was having pretty much petered out. They were at least ten minutes apart and I couldn’t feel them at all. It was decided then that I’d be given a second dose, this time twice as much, of Cytotec. This meant at least another two hours of fetal monitoring. It felt like I would be tied to my hospital bed forever. I ached to get on my feet, to stretch my legs and back, but instead I had to be happy with switching from sitting to side-lying on one side or the other. The whole process seemed endless and I was beginning to worry if an induction would even be successful this time.

And then everything started to change.

Within an hour of my double dose of Cytotec, I went from having essentially no contractions to having them every ninety seconds. They weren’t yet strong enough to cause me the sort of pain that I would experience in the hours ahead, but they certainly were enough to make me stop and catch my breath. And they gave me hope that this thing might happen after all. That my body could and would respond to another induction and bring forth the baby I felt kicking away in my womb.

But then suddenly, the baby’s heart rate dropped. During one of many contractions, her heart rate dipped from the 130s to 80 or so. My nurse had me quickly recline and turn onto my side and the baby’s heart rate returned to normal, but I could tell the nurse was shaken by it and so was I. We waited and watched in the minutes that followed and while the baby’s heart rate did not decelerate again, it also didn’t show the variability (the up and down of a heart rate that often occurs with contractions or movement) that is considered a reassuring sign. The charge nurse came in to watch the fetal monitor alongside my personal nurse, but nothing changed. I became worried. They kept assuring me that my baby was okay and probably just sleeping, and I could hear her heartbeat and knew she was alive, but I suddenly felt so very vulnerable. We were in a hospital and well on our way to welcoming our long-awaited-for baby into this world, but she still wasn’t safe. We had spent a year, praying for her conception. I had spent nine months of pregnancy, in an almost constant panic, always afraid that we would lose her too. She was now about to be born and she STILL wasn’t safe. She wouldn’t be until she was in my arms. It was a frightening realization and the tears flowed quietly as I sat there waiting for her to move, waiting for that sign that she was still okay.

What was supposed to be two hours of fetal monitoring became two-and-a-half. Three. Three-and-a-half. I was so sick of lying in bed, but the nurses didn’t want me to get up until they saw a change in the baby’s heart rate and, in my fear and anxiety, I didn’t have the heart to protest. It was decided that the best course of action would be to administer terbutaline, a drug sometimes given to stop premature labor, but for me it would be used to slow down my contractions, hopefully giving my baby girl the time to catch her “breath” and bounce back after contractions coming too close together for too long.

Around this time, I also decided I was ready to text my dear friend Kim to ask her to come to the hospital. Kim birthed her second child naturally and feels passionately about women’s birth rights and the benefits of natural birth, and I knew her presence and encouragement would be a crucial part of my birth plan. With the contractions becoming painful, my body shaking uncontrollably, and my heart so full of fear for my baby, I knew then that I needed her, not only to help me through the contractions, but to give me the extra emotional support and comfort.

Kim arrived 45 minutes later just as my contractions were finally slowing down to a more manageable spacing of 2-3 minutes apart. The doctor arrived shortly thereafter to check my dilation (3cm, I think?) and try to tickle the baby’s head to see if her heart rate would respond to touch. I was also encouraged to go to the bathroom and, just as I climbed back into bed for more monitoring, our precious baby finally awoke and began kicking and wiggling away, which led to the heart rate accelerations we had all been waiting for. The relief in the room was palpable. I felt such a sense of calm flow through me and my shaking stopped almost instantly. So the terbutaline had done its job and the baby was rebounding nicely, but there was a new problem: my pulse was abnormally high. It was most likely a side effect of the terbutaline, but it was a cause for concern nevertheless and once again kept me from being free from all the wires. So I was monitored some more. Perhaps I should have fought them at that point and demanded the opportunity to walk around, but I had always known this was one of those unfortunate parts of being induced. And I also believed that having a good rapport with the nurses was going to be critical if I wanted this all to go as smoothly as possible. And so I stayed in bed and allowed the monitoring to continue.

Finally, though, after hours stuck in essentially the same position, I was able to walk the floor. I would still have to be monitored the entire time and kept hydrated with my IV fluids, but I could use the portable fetal monitor instead. So I walked about as the contractions grew in their intensity and my mom, Kim, and my husband took turns pushing my IV pole and holding my gigantic jug of apple juice.

hospital birth, birth without fear

After an hour of walking the halls of the birth center, I was ready for a change of pace. My contractions were back to being about ninety seconds apart and they were becoming more difficult to talk and walk through. We decided to try the bathtub instead, since the portable fetal monitor was also waterproof. That hot (so hot we had to add ice cubes to it) water was such a relief. The first couple contractions I spent there I didn’t even feel and the ones that came after were greatly reduced in intensity. I felt like I could have spent the rest of my life sitting there, immersed in that warmth. Unfortunately, the water made it difficult to monitor the baby and, given our earlier scare and my constant fears for our rainbow baby, I really wanted to be monitored, however cumbersome it was. And so back to the bed I went.

As the contractions continued to come very close together and seemed to become more painful with each one, and the back labor became nearly impossible to endure, we tried everything we could for natural pain management. A variety of positions, from all-fours, to side-lying, to sitting on a birthing ball while leaning on the bed (my favorite), and more. We tried massage with a rolling pin. Counterpressure from a rolling pin. Hip squeezing. A hot water bottle against my lower back. Cold rags on my face and back. Listening to my labor CD. The list goes on. We had quite the “toolkit” and yet nothing felt like it was enough. The back labor had me crippled with each contraction and, with the contractions so constant, there were no breaks. No recovery time. I felt like I was treading water. And sinking.

When my water broke shortly after midnight in a gush that soaked me and the bed, I got scared. Throughout my labor, I had been telling Kim, “I’m scared. I’m scared.” And I was. It was my constant mantra, this admission of fear. Fear of the pain. Fear for my baby’s well-being. Fear for my ability to endure. Fear of the unknown. And this time, I meant it more than ever. I was afraid. So afraid. Afraid because I knew the contractions would get harder without the cushion of amniotic fluid. And they did. Oh, God, did they! Ten minutes earlier, it had been hard to imagine any more pain than what I was experiencing in that moment. But now I knew…it could get worse. It would get worse. I still had a long way to go.

I will say this: I was really at my most vulnerable, my most primal, during my labor. The low, deep moans. The wailing and whimpering I couldn’t control. The wild hair that has me cringing when I look at photos, but that I didn’t even ponder when I was in the middle of it all. The cries for help. The farting. The peeing. The vomiting. I didn’t poop during delivery, but I did just about everything else.

And yet, I had never felt more present in my life. I had my eyes closed throughout much of it, but my senses of touch and hearing were incredible. I could tell who was touching me just by the weight of their hand. I heard every conversation even as I turned inwards to get through the worst of the contractions. I was able to respond to questions, able to hear my baby’s beating heart, able to laugh when Honey told a joke. I felt more empowered than perhaps I ever had. I was doing what female mammals had been doing for thousands of years. I was experiencing, fully, truly experiencing the glory and grief of womanhood at an acute intensity. It was amazing.

It’s a funny thing to feel so strong and weak at once. Strong because I felt completely and totally alive. But weak because I really was beginning to feel like I couldn’t go on. I was tired. And I was in excruciating, unbearable pain that was relentless. As soon as one contraction ended, another began, and it had been that way for hours. More than once, I wished that my baby had been breech after all and I’d been forced to have a c-section. And with those thoughts, the “e”-word also rose to the surface. Epidural. Epidural, epidural, epidural. The four syllables thudded through my head over and over and over. I wanted to give in and give up. I wanted someone to give me the permission to do so.

I started to feel some painful rectal pressure and I said so. It was about 2 a.m. The nurse checked me. I wanted her to say I was 7, 8, 9, 10 centimeters dilated. I needed to know the end was near. And I told myself if it wasn’t, I would consider accepting pain meds. I would admit my weaknesses and cry uncle.

I was then told I was 4-5cm along.

“Oh, god. I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore!” I felt like crying.

The charge nurse, Debbie, knelt before me. She told me to open my eyes and look at her. She told me I had a decision to make. “You need to decide what you want to do,” she said. “Not during a contraction. Not immediately after. But in between. Talk to your husband. Decide what you can live with. And we will support you in whatever you choose.” She never said the “e”-word, as I had requested that it not be offered to me, but essentially, she was giving me the permission to give up that I so desired.

After another contraction, Kim gently asked me if I wanted to talk to my husband. “No, I want to talk to you,” I said. “I don’t want to let you down. You were so strong when you had your baby and I know this isn’t the kind of birth you wanted to attend.” Kim laughed. She said not to worry about her, that this had nothing to do with her. That each woman’s labor is unique and I had already been so strong, so amazing.

Another contraction gripped me and then I asked my husband if he would be disappointed in me if I asked for an epidural. Though I yearned for the permission to give up, a part of me was hoping he would say yes. That someone would require me to stick with it. Instead, Dan whispered loudly, “Honestly, I can’t even remember why we want a natural birth.” The nurses laughed. Mom and Kim laughed. So did I. “Why do we want to do this again?” he asked.

“Because it’s what’s best for the baby,” I said. And I did believe it was best for my baby girl AND for me, but with another contraction coming on strong, it was hard to feel much conviction. And so as soon as I caught my breath, I relented. I asked for an epidural. I was disappointed in myself, and for a long time afterwards I would hold onto that shame, but I was relieved too. And desperate for the anesthesiologist to come as quickly as he could. Fast would not be fast enough.

I kept asking for the epidural. Or rather, screaming for it. Begging for it. “Where is he? Where is he?” I asked over and over. “I need heeeeelllllp!” I could feel myself losing control, spiraling. I was a mess. A number of times, it occurred to me that if there was another pregnant woman walking the halls in early labor and if she happened to pass my room, I would probably scare that baby right out of her. My pain terrified me; surely it would terrify someone else too. But even while I knew that I had lost all grip on my pain management, and even though Kim worked very hard to guide me in getting it back under control, I couldn’t. I wouldn’t listen. I wanted no part in working with the contractions anymore. I just wanted pain relief. And I just wanted that baby out of me.

And then suddenly, I felt the most incredible, undeniable pressure. It felt like I was being turned inside out. Like I was being ripped apart. “I feel like I have to poop!” I screamed. But even as I said it, I knew I didn’t. I knew I just needed to push. I knew my baby was ready.

And when the nurse checked me, just fifteen minutes or so after my last check when I was only 4-5cm dilated, sure enough…it was confirmed that I was fully effaced, fully dilated, and ready to push. With no epidural in sight.

The problem? The on-call doctor was at home a half-hour away. And the other doctor on the floor was no where to be found.

“I have to push! I have to push!” I screamed.

“No! No, don’t push!” Everyone screamed back. My nurse ran to gather a team of nurses to help in the delivery while Debbie (the charge nurse) tried to convince me that I had to wait until the doctor arrived. And I did try, but only half-heartedly. I already knew that I couldn’t hold back much longer.

“I can feel her coming! I feel her head. I need her out! I need her out!” Phrases like that streamed out of me, over and over, while everyone kept telling me not to push. To wait. To hold on.

But there came a point of no return. The baby was coming, ready or not, and so I let go. I screamed and I pushed. One, two, three. Three pushes, one vivid ring of fire, and less than five minutes later, and then there she was, in the hands of Debbie and my nurse, whimpering. Not crying. It was 2:23 a.m.

“Is she okay?” I asked, straining to see her, already on my way to forgetting the intensity of the pain that I had just endured.

“She’s fine,” they told me and she was placed on my chest, warm and gooey and beautiful, and then she did cry a loud, perfect wail and the greatest weight was lifted from my shoulders. My second daughter was here, safe at last, and nothing mattered more than that. This was the moment I had been fighting for, crying for, praying for, waiting for, hoping for, yearning for, preparing for, for months and months and months. Perhaps my whole life.

hospital birth, healing, birth without fear

Kim once asked me if I felt any trauma from this birth. I think my husband does. Seeing me writhing in pain has lingered in his head and heart for years. But me? All of the pain, all of the fear, the sense of helplessness and defeat, was buried by a mound of relief and joy the moment I held my Eloise in my arms. And time has only made the sweet moments sweeter in my memory and helped the rest to fade away.

I have since gone on to have another child, my first boy. He was born naturally as well, and was my first that didn’t require an induction. And though he helped me to understand just how different induced contractions are compared to natural ones and his birth was the ideal scenario, everything I had hoped for across the years, it is Eloise’s birth that was the most powerful for me. Her birth brought me to the brink. Stripped down. Raw. No other birth has made me suffer so much or empowered me so greatly. I found such healing in bringing her into this world. After so much pain, both in trying to conceive her and in laboring through such agony, and after so many years of hating my body for one reason or another, I learned just what my body is capable of. I learned what I am made of. I learned just how strong I can be. And for that, I will never be the same.

hospital birth, birth without fear, healing

Selah’s Birth Story

Selah’s Birth Story

Autumn shares with us the birth story of her fifth child.

“Honey, we are pregnant!”

And just like that, baby number five was on the way. Actually, it had taken over a year of trying after number four, but once that test showed positive, I was ecstatic. I’m sort of a pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding junkie, and we always wanted a big family (but perhaps at some point I should get a new hobby or become a midwife – someday!).

All of my births were incredible journeys of learning, experiencing the power within myself, discovering strength I didn’t know I had, and wonder at meeting a new human. My first birth was a planned unmedicated hospital birth; but I was young, uneducated and I ended up falling prey to their cascade of interventions. So for number two I educated myself, hired a doula and had a textbook wonderful, unmedicated hospital birth.

For number three, I decided I wanted a home birth. At 32 weeks, I started having lots of Braxton Hicks contractions and went into labor at 36 weeks and two days. It was a beautiful, empowering and life-changing experience. At that moment, I decided I always wanted to birth my babies at home; but rarely does life go as planned. I went into preterm labor with number four at 32 weeks, and was admitted to the hospital. They were able to stop me from progressing with medication, but the contractions themselves wouldn’t stop. I was released from the hospital on medication and instructed to be on modified bed rest (Ha! I was a mother to three other children…but I did my best.) From 32 weeks until my water broke at 38 weeks I literally contracted every five minutes – even on medication. I think my body was exhausted.

My water broke spontaneously at 4 a.m. on Christmas morning with no contractions. My husband was only comfortable waiting for labor to begin for 24 hours. So when it didn’t, we headed to the hospital, got some Pitocin, and two hours later without any other medication, I was holding baby number four in my arms. I then proceeded to hemorrhage, and things got a little crazy. Number four’s birth was a little traumatic and went nothing like the plan, but it was still oh so worth it. So when I found out I was pregnant with number five (which is supposed to be our last), I was set on another home birth. I envisioned a perfect birth with a midwife and a photographer capturing all the intimate moments so I could treasure them for a lifetime. And this was my last shot at it!

First on my agenda was to locate a midwife, and then hire a birth photographer. Since we are a military family, all my babies have been born in different states; so I’ve never had the opportunity to have the same midwife with any of my babies. So I located a midwife and began seeing her. Through a misunderstanding on my part at thirty weeks, I realized that I needed a CNM for my insurance to help cover the home birth. So I contacted a different midwife, and she was willing to take me so late in my pregnancy. I loved her. I had never really “clicked” with my first midwife, but after the first time talking with our new midwife I loved her. She felt like the perfect match for our family. The only drawback in my mind was that she lived over an hour away; and we live in the Washington, DC area, so traffic can turn any drive into a much longer adventure.

At 32 weeks again, my Braxton Hicks contractions started in fierce. Given my history, we monitored them closely and I rested as much as possible. I tried all sorts of different strategies to try to keep the contractions down to a minimum. I absolutely did not want to go into preterm labor. I desperately wanted to make it to at least 36 weeks, if not longer; so I was willing to try anything that would help. My mom decided to come when I was 34 weeks to help with the other children and around the house. I homeschool my older kids, so “resting” during the day isn’t very easy. Once we made it to 36 weeks, my mother-in-law decided to go ahead and fly in so she could be at the birth as well.

Two days before my 37-week visit with the midwife, my contractions picked up in intensity and frequency. As the day progressed, they got closer and stronger. I tucked all my little ones in bed around 7 p.m. and then went to take a bath. By about 9 p.m. that night, my contractions were about three minutes apart and a little longer than a minute in duration, and I even a little bit of bloody show; so I called the midwife. In my mind I thought, “This is it!” (I should know what labor is, right? This is baby, number five after all).

My midwife checked back in about an hour later and the contractions were still going strong. She decided to go ahead and come over. Her assistant arrived first and started taking my vitals and helping me through the contractions. Shortly after the midwife arrived, the photographer arrived as well. The contractions were strong enough that it was difficult to talk through them. Then, about three hours after everyone arrived, they just stopped. We waited all night and nothing happened. So the next morning everyone left, thinking that my labor would probably start later that night again.

But nothing happened. My contractions just went back to their regular pattern. About a week later, this happened again. My 38-week appointment rolled around and everything looked great. Physically and emotionally, I was tired due to all the contractions, but baby was doing great. Then 39 weeks came and went as well. By this point, I was so ready to have this baby. I wasn’t sleeping well due to all the contractions, my hips were so sore, and I was tired of wondering, “Is this it?” My best friend had flown in for this week because we were sure baby would be here. But alas, my friend had to get back home to her family while there was still no baby.

At 40 weeks, my midwife arrived at my house for another weekly check. I had all my supplies ready, baby was doing well, and the grandmas were still at our house waiting for baby to arrive. At this point I was not feeling confident in my ability to be able to “know” when I was truly in labor. We had had several “this is it” calls, only to be disappointed… This was baby number five and I still couldn’t figure this out!

My midwife ad I had talked many times about what I envisioned the birth to be, what I wanted, and so forth. My biggest fear for the birth was that my midwife wouldn’t make it in time. I did not want to birth my baby without my midwife there. Especially since I had hemorrhaged after my fourth. We talked extensively about what to do if I had the baby before she got there. I felt so relieved; and for the first time, I felt at peace with the possibility of doing it without the midwife there. I still didn’t want it to happen that way, but I felt prepared in the event that it did. We parted ways with a hug, and a 41-week visit scheduled.

Before bed that night, my contractions had moved a little closer together, but I was not concerned since this had happened many times before. I honestly didn’t even give it a second thought. At 4:30 a.m. on March 23, 2016, I woke up to a contraction. I also needed to go pee, so I decided to get out of bed. While going to the bathroom, I noticed a little bit of bloody show. But again, this had all happened before in the few weeks prior. So I decided to lie back down. I lay down for about 20 minutes and had a couple more contractions, but I just couldn’t get comfortable due to my hips hurting. They had been bothering me so much over the course of the last few weeks of pregnancy.

Most mornings, I had been getting up at around 5 a.m. because it hurt too much to lie in bed any longer. So I slipped out of bed without waking my husband up, and decided to go downstairs and eat something. I made myself some eggs; and while doing that, I had a few more contractions. These contractions maybe felt a little stronger than my normal everyday Braxton Hicks contractions, but were nothing close to being painful. I went upstairs and decided to read. After about 30 minutes I decided to give the midwife a call; it was about 5:30 a.m., since the contractions were coming about every 5 minutes now. They still were not painful or unbearable, but I was still having a little bloody show. I figured we would have the baby sometime that day, perhaps around noonish.

I unlocked the front door and made my way upstairs to get in the bath to see if that would slow the contractions down. Before I got in, I thought I should wake my husband up, just to let him know what was going on. He immediately sat up and was ready to go. I reassured him he should just get more sleep as I didn’t need anything at this point, and told him I just wanted to let him know the front door was open and that the midwife would be there in about an hour. He insisted he wanted to get up, and I finally agreed.

Before I had gone downstairs to eat, I had set up the video camera just in case this was it. This was my last baby, and I did not want to miss getting it on camera. It was about 6 a.m. now and my tub was full of warm water. I put my sports bra on and got in to relax. A few minutes after I got in the tub, I had a contraction and I felt my water break. I immediately knew this was REAL labor and that this baby was coming fast. As soon as my water broke, I felt like I needed to push and I knew she was really close to being born. Mind you, less than five minutes before this I was reassuring my husband he could stay in bed because I didn’t even know if I was really in labor.

As soon as my water broke, I felt intense pressure. I screamed for my husband to get back in the bathroom, call the midwife, and press record on the camera. In my mind I knew the midwife wasn’t going to make it, but I was hoping she had somehow miraculously covered a large distance and was about ready to turn onto our street. But that wasn’t the case. She was still a little over thirty minutes away. We decided she would stay on the phone with us. As we were waiting for another contraction, she asked if I had called the photographer. SHOOT! Given the fact that I wasn’t sure this was it and then now the craziness, it hadn’t even crossed my mind. I texted the photographer to tell her that I was in labor and that she should get there fast. She texted back saying she was on her way.

I had another contraction, and it was all I could do to keep from pushing. The contractions were so strong and powerful all of a sudden. My husband was a nervous wreck. He kept pacing; and all I wanted was for him to hold my hand. I did not want to have this baby by myself. The midwife wanted him to go get a few things ready, but I did not want him to leave me. At around this time, another powerful contraction began. The midwife was talking me through it, but about halfway through I could no longer hold off on pushing. My body just took over; and my daughter’s head was born. The midwife continued calmly talking with us, and I just patiently waited in the water for the next contraction. Even over the phone, our midwife was calm, collected, confident, and reassuring and a source of comfort for me. Her confidence and reassurance translated to a level of peace and confidence in my heart and mind.

The next contraction came at 6:15 a.m. and our fifth baby – our second daughter – joined us earth side just 15 minutes after my water had broken and I realized I really was in labor. She slid into my arms, and I immediately brought her to my chest. It was the most surreal moment. She snuggled in, and within a few moments let out her first cry. What a relief. I had done it. Selah Grace was here, and we were now a family of seven. Just my husband and I were at her birth. My mom, his mom, and our four older children had no idea the baby had been born.

Since the midwife was still about 30 minutes away, we decided to go get my husband’s mom to come assess my bleeding since she was a labor and delivery nurse. She told us she was in shock when he came back downstairs and told him the baby was here. She made her way up the stairs and monitored the situation until the midwife arrived. While we waited for the midwife I tried to get my new little one to nurse, but she was happy to just stare at me and listen to me talk to her.

The midwife arrived, the placenta was born, and everyone finally made it in our room to meet the new addition to the family. The photographer had also arrived so she was able to at least capture these moments. It was so beautiful to have all my children in bed with me marveling at our newest baby. She finally decided it was time to eat and she was a champ from the get go at breastfeeding. It was magical. Everyone enjoyed the next few hours of skin-to-skin, weighing baby, looking her over, and taking her in for the first time.

Her birth happened so quickly that it took me several weeks – maybe even a few months – to come to terms with it. In some ways, I felt like I couldn’t even process it because it had felt like such a whirlwind. It was peaceful and awe-inspiring, but it was just difficult to wrap my mind around. Now, eight months later, I feel empowered. It was a magical moment being the only ones there, and I realize there was no way for me to guess that it would have happened that quickly.

Photographs by Alhalia Photography.

A Home Birth Story

A Home Birth Story

Robin shares the story of her daughter’s birth at home.

Baby H’s birth story really starts with the birth of her older brother two years earlier. I had a very fast labor with him; and by the time I realized I was actually in labor, I barely made it to the hospital before he arrived. Despite him being born about 10 minutes after our arrival, my experience there was very negative, being forced to lie on my back, being given an episiotomy and having a vacuum delivery without my consent, performed by an impatient doctor. It took me a while to realize why it all upset me so much before I realized it was like I had climbed a mountain – and a few steps from the top, someone came along and said no, I’ll finish it for you. When we decided to try for another baby, I knew that I would be doing things very differently. I was able to get in with a midwifery group right away with baby number two, and we started planning our home birth.

The evening before baby H’s arrival was nothing out of the ordinary; I took my toddler to his gym drop-in, then bought our fruits and veggies for the week. I was exhausted being two days past my estimated due date, so I sent my husband out to pick up dinner. I ended up eating too quickly and throwing up my entire meal, which was an ongoing theme throughout this pregnancy. As I was contemplating what to have for dinner attempt number two, I noticed I was having some very mild cramps every 20 minutes or so; they were barely noticeable.

The cramps continued throughout the evening but weren’t really getting any stronger; though I did let my husband know that things might be starting when I went to bed around 10 p.m. I laid in bed reading for a bit, then as soon as I turned off the light to get some sleep they started to get stronger. (Why do I always go into labor right as I’m about to go to sleep for the night?) They were still totally manageable, but I decided to time a few just to get an idea of what was going on; and they were anywhere from six to 15 minutes apart and about a minute long. I decided to try to get some sleep.

I woke up at around 12:30 to much stronger contractions. I couldn’t lie down anymore ­– I had to be pacing around to get through them. I got out my phone to try to time a few, but because I needed to keep moving, it was hard to do; they were definitely two to three minutes apart and at least 45 seconds long, but probably longer. Because my first labor was so fast, the plan was to call the midwife as soon as I was sure I was in labor; so I woke my husband up and told him I needed my pool set up, and I paged my midwife.

The midwife called back a few minutes later. She was skeptical because I was easily able to talk through my contractions; but because of my history, she said she would come, and that she would hold off on calling the second midwife until she arrived. I went ahead and made the bed with plastic and extra sheets, and my hubby got working on filling the pool. I really wanted to get in that water!

I headed out to the living room to lean on my exercise ball while I was waiting. My contractions got stronger while I was out there, and eventually I needed to be on all fours for each one then went back to leaning on my ball in between. During this time our two-year-old woke up, but luckily my hubby was able to get him back to sleep.

The midwife arrived and things were pretty intense at that point; I was needing to breathe through every contraction, she told me she had called the other midwife and that my pool was ready and I could get in! That was the best thing I’d heard all night.

The pool was set up in our bedroom and we just had a very dim lamp on in there, with the glow of the Christmas tree in the background. It was just perfect. I had put a yoga bra top in my supply box to wear in the pool, but by this point I just wanted to get in the water NOW; so I stripped off my pajamas and got in. The temperature was perfect and it felt so nice to finally be in the water. The midwife came and did what would be the only heart-rate check my entire labor, and everything sounded great.

I had a few of the same contractions after I got in. I was able to lie back in between and lean on the edge of the pool; then transition hit, and I had to be on my hands and knees the entire time. I had a few really intense contractions with very little break in between. I had that moment that so many women have where I decided I didn’t want to do this anymore, which meant baby was almost here!

At the end of the third or fourth really intense contraction, I felt her suddenly move all the way down the birth canal; such a strange feeling. I reached down and felt the bulge of her head, and told the midwives that baby was coming. Luckily the depth of the water was enough that I could stay on hands and knees and keep everything under the water. They reminded me to stay down low enough to keep her head under when it came out.

At the next contraction, my entire body decided to push; it just happened, and there was nothing I could have done to stop it. It really didn’t even feel like I was doing anything myself; it was so much different from the coached pushing I went through with my son. It wasn’t even painful, though it got very loud; it was just such an intense effort. One of the midwives put pressure on my perineum, which felt so good. I had three contractions like that, pushing the entire time on hands and knees with my face just barely above the water; and at the end of the third one, her head was out!

The midwives told me the hard work was done, and to just push her out the rest of the way on the next contraction. This was the most surreal moment of the entire experience and something I will never forget – still on hands and knees in the pool, holding her head with one hand while waiting for that last push. She was so soft and perfect. I’m sure that moment only lasted maybe a minute, but it was just the best thing ever being the first person to ever hold her while she was still in between worlds.

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The next contraction came, and I easily pushed her out. The midwife caught her then passed her back through my legs so I could lift her up to my chest. We laid back in the pool with her on my chest crying; it was the most amazing moment. I did it!

After a few minutes, the midwives (the second one arrived sometime during transition, I didn’t even notice!) needed some light to check on us; so we turned on a lamp. They did their initial checks, and everything was fine. They were referring to her as “him” until one of them asked if we had confirmed the gender; (we didn’t find out the sex beforehand) and the other one said that no, we hadn’t checked; so I got to lift her up and see that we had a girl! I was so surprised since I really wasn’t expecting a girl at all.

I had planned to deliver the placenta without an oxytocin injection, so they said to just gently push when I felt a cramp. Well, H’s cord was quite short – barely long enough for her to reach my chest – and the way it was touching me, I just couldn’t push so they suggested we cut the cord and I move to the bed. The cord had already stopped pulsing, so the midwives helped my partner cut it then we passed H to him while I moved to the bed; then she was back on my chest. I was easily able to push out the placenta now that the cord was out of the way. The midwife checked me for tears and I only had a tiny one that didn’t even need a stitch.

Then we were left to cuddle in bed skin-to-skin for a while; she even latched on like a pro. Eventually she had her newborn exam and everything was perfect; she was 5 lbs 10 oz and 19½” long, born at 2:31 a.m. after about two hours of active labor. It was such an amazing experience; there is not a single thing I can think of that I would change. Our son slept through the entire thing. He woke up at around 5 a.m. to meet his new sister, and was so excited that he couldn’t go back to sleep.

Our son was quite small, too, which resulted in a very frustrating hospital stay with formula forced on us because of concerns with his blood sugar and then weight loss. Being at home with midwives was a totally different experience. They told us that because of her weight we could either go to the hospital for blood sugar monitoring or supplement small amounts to keep her blood sugar up. I wanted to stay home, so we just supplemented with donor milk until my milk came in on day three. She only lost about 7% of her weight and had minimal jaundice thanks to being allowed to make an informed choice about her care rather than being forced into hospital protocol. She regained her birth weight by day six, and continues to grow at an amazing pace.

Hypnobirthing: A Drug-Free Birth Story

Hypnobirthing: A Drug-Free Birth Story

Eva tells us about the drug-free birth of her first child.

At the advice of some friends, I prepared for my first baby by I taking Hypnobirthing classes and listening to the Rainbow Relaxation track daily. I did yoga weekly, had an affirmations wall, drank raspberry leaf tea in the third trimester, and ate dates. I hired a great and attentive doula. I was doing freelance design work at the time so work was spotty, but it gave me a lot of free time, which I am grateful for; but I actually worked full-time the week before my son was born, and walked up 60 steps at the subway stop every day! Whew!

I knew I could and wanted to give birth to my baby naturally, as my mom had me (her first child) with no drugs, and I was frank breech! I planned on giving birth in Mt. Sinai Roosevelt’s Birthing Center (I was not comfortable with the idea of a home birth in our tiny apartment, but I didn’t want to be hooked up to machines or an IV.) And shockingly, I qualified for the Birthing Center’s strict policies, despite a bout of high amniotic fluid over the course of the last month.

On October 24th I had pretty much the perfect Saturday: yoga, followed by leisurely time with my husband, Chris, and a long walk in the park to admire the foliage until it got dark. We planned for a friend to come over on Sunday and carve pumpkins.

Sunday morning I had trouble sleeping, and kept getting up to use the bathroom. I had light menstrual-cramp-like feelings that came and went, but I didn’t wake Chris up because I didn’t want him to get over-excited (he really wanted the baby to come!). At 6 a.m. I gave up attempting to sleep, and I woke Chris up to tell him today was probably the day. I timed the sensations and they were very accurately five minutes apart. This was pretty shocking to me as I thought early labor involved widely or irregularly-spaces contractions.

I tidied up for a while to get everything around the house as orderly as possible, I finished packing the suitcase, and I put fresh sheets on the bed in anticipation for when I would come home and lay in bed with our new baby. I then took a shower; and what everyone says about water in labor was true – it felt wonderful all over, but it also made my contractions less regular (and this played into the doctor’s misjudgment about how far along I was). I called our doula, Victoria, who said she would start getting ready to come over, then I called my mom to tell her the baby would probably be here today. It was around 9 a.m. and she wished I had called her as soon as I had woken up! (She was ready to drive from Virginia to New York at a moment’s notice.) Then I called my OB, Dr. F, who asked me to come to his office in Manhattan for a check. I knew he would ask this; and since I wanted to have an enjoyable, relaxing labor and not spend the day on public transportation, I suggested that I go to his cousin’s office, Dr. G, in Forest Hills. He called Dr. G and they were okay with that plan; so I scheduled to meet him at 1 p.m.

Chris and I went grocery shopping for every snack I could imagine wanting in the Birthing Center. The surges at this point were enough that I had to stop for a second or two, but generally I could continue shopping normally. I trudged around in comfy pajamas, and Chris carted all of the food home. I had a light lunch of an English muffin with cream cheese and sliced cucumber.

We took a cab to Dr. G’s office, and this is when my suspicion that being in a car while in labor would be miserable was proven correct. I only had a handful of surges in the cab (it may have only been two or three; I can’t remember), but I had to hold onto the seat and brace myself. More than anything, I was aware that sitting that way was a big no-no! The angle of the seat didn’t help, either. The cab ride, which should have only been 10 minutes, felt like forever; and I was wondering if the driver was being slow on purpose!

At Dr. G’s very lovely office, we waited for a bit before he showed up, then in the exam room he asked me to sit on the table. I really preferred to stand (since sitting was so uncomfortable in the cab) and I hoped the exam would be short, but instead of getting down to business, he started on a long spiel about what Braxton Hicks feel like. He went on and on, and internally I was rolling my eyes, and also hoping that Chris wasn’t disappointed and thinking perhaps the baby wasn’t coming. I thought that Dr. G must’ve thought I was really dumb. He finally checked me, and was noticeably surprised when he said my cervix was 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced! That was also a pleasant surprise for me, but half of my brain was also saying, “I told you so, moron.” He left the room for a minute to call my OB, and I could finally stand up to better work through the surges. When he came back in the room I was leaning on the counter and breathing through a particularly long one, and his eyes popped out of his head. I thought, “Aren’t you an OB? How is this news to you?” He said that because of the way I calmly spoke on the phone, he assumed I wasn’t really in labor.

Our doula, Victoria, showed up at Dr. G’s office, and we discussed how to proceed. Dr. G wanted us to go straight to the hospital, but I said that all of our stuff was at home; and plus, I really wanted to spend the majority of labor at home. He said that when you are very effaced things can sometimes go unexpectedly fast. Dr. F suggested going to the hospital around 3 p.m. (I think it was around 1:30 at the time.

Since the cab ride sucked so much, we decided to walk back so I could be more comfortable. The way home was two miles and took about an hour, considering I was stopping for each contraction. The walk turned out to be a really enjoyable part of the day – the sun was out, it was warm and breezy, and we chatted the whole time about what a beautiful day it was for our son to be born, about the neighborhood and different buildings we passed. Victoria kept making little jokes at Dr. G’s expense, such as, “When we get home we’ll have lunch, since these are only Braxton Hicks.” During contractions I leaned on trees (Victoria suggested this), or on Chris, or occasionally on a wall. Victoria was very protective of me crossing streets; maybe I was a little spaced out and she was afraid I would stop in the middle of the street during a contraction.

We had to walk on Queens Boulevard for a couple blocks, which unfortunately was more crowded, dirty and noisy. I heard someone calling my name, and it was a property agent we had worked with in the past – I had to stop and make small talk with her! She asked how many months along I was and I just said, “Nine.” Then she gave me a little hug – thankfully I was between contractions – but I was all sweaty and just wearing a baggy t-shirt and lounge pants! I never thought I would have to hug an almost-stranger while in labor.

We made it home and I checked the suitcase and all the stuff we’d packed, and slowly ate a couple of cucumber slices. The contractions were much more serious and I kneeled on my yoga mat on the floor by the bed while Victoria applied pressure to my back. I could not get comfortable; the sensations were truly hard to deal with, and there was a sense of things getting real. This is where I started to lose awareness of time because Chris says we were only home for about 20 minutes before they decided it was time to get going. We had so many bags, and we almost forgot the birth ball (I was so fixated on that ball and I didn’t actually use it in the hospital at all!) Chris could hardly carry everything. I remember spotting a larger SUV-type cab but I don’t remember the process of getting into it. Chris had been nervous about leaving at the right time but says he knew we got it right because of a rule of thumb I told him from Natural Hospital Birth: “It should take you 10 minutes to get to the car.” He said it took forever.

The cab ride was the part where I was nervous I would lose my cool. There was NO way I was sitting on my butt at this point so I kneeled awkwardly over the birth ball so Victoria could access my back, sometimes facing the window and sometimes the back seat when each way got uncomfortable. I plugged in to my rainbow relaxation track, closed my eyes, and totally focused on the track and breathing to deal with the disconcerting motion of the cab. I hardly believed it when Chris said that we were in Manhattan. He said later that the cab driver knew what was going on and was on-point and quick, even paying a toll in cash because the e-z pass lane was backed up. I am thankful for that cab driver.

When we got to the hospital, I was happy to get out of the cab and eager to get into the nice whirlpool tub in a Birthing Center room. In the lobby, Chris called Dr. F to see if we were supposed to go to the Birthing Center floor or the Labor & Delivery floor – he wasn’t there yet (even though Chris has called him when we got in the cab) and said we should go to triage on the L&D floor. Thankfully I knew where the elevators were that went directly to that floor, and we scurried.

In triage the nurse started asking me a bunch of questions about my medical history, allergies, etc., that were really stupid since I had pre-registered online! The redundancy was not a surprise though, but I really wished I did not have to think about the questions.

When I initially went to the triage area, which was a hospital bed with the external monitor condoned off by a curtain, I had to go alone, which was scary. I truly think that it should be a hard and fast rule that no one in labor should be left alone – that’s just common sense. A nurse was asking me MORE questions. They had to do the cervical exam and I even asked if I really had to lie down for this (I imagined it would be possible on all fours), but no such luck, I had to lie on my back, which was excruciating. They had me butterfly my knees out, and then the woman stuck a whole hand in me. This is the only part of labor I would really describe as unbearable, though thankfully it was short; and after this, I decided I’d like to do baby number two at home! What a terrible thing to subject someone to, I felt like a freaking turkey!

She said I was 8 cm, which was good to hear because it meant not much more to go. She then put a big, stretchy band on me to hold the external monitors to take a 20-minute intake reading. Only one person could join me in triage, so I chose my husband. He helped me labor on all fours on that stupid triage bed by doing some light-touch massage on my hips and butt, which helped me focus, and he whispered soft encouragements. At one point another girl was brought in (remember, we were only partitioned by curtains), who was SCREAMING and crying out in pain, and it was deeply disturbing to hear. I used my hands to simultaneously plug my ears and cover my eyes until Chris came back from the triage waiting area with my iPod and headphones. This was another most difficult point.

Unbeknownst to me, Chris was in communication with my OB, who was stuck in an Uber and was still an estimated 40 minutes away. Thankfully Chris didn’t tell me. A nurse came in and said the monitors were messed up or something, and that I had to continue being attached to them, and so in retrospect I essentially spent transition in triage. I worked on letting go of my dream of luxuriating in a fancy whirlpool tub and totally turned inward.

(Afterward, Chris told me that I was thirsty and he asked nurses multiple times for water, and they told him to go get it from a fridge – he had to demand that someone bring it to him so he didn’t have to leave my side. When they did bring some, it was a tiny little bottle. Ridiculous.)

Then my water broke while kneeling on the table! It was a very sudden and powerful explosion that made me yell because of the intensity. A nurse reassured me that it was just my water breaking, and I thought, “No shit.” I wasn’t confused, just shocked; it was such a powerful physical sensation! I instantly felt the pressure increase. The resident asked if I felt like pushing, and I said yes. She said to hold back and not push, which I thought was the most idiotic thing ever because it was my body doing it, not me. [Side note: the resident and the triage nurses all looked really young, and the whole time I had the sense that nobody working there had actually had a baby.

I was vaguely aware that my baby was moving down, and I said, “Baby’s coming – get me a room!” I just wanted to be put somewhere private and not give birth in triage. There was no time left to be concerned about having a nice Birthing Center room. They brought a wheelchair and I said, “Can I walk?” But for some reason I wasn’t allowed to. It seemed like I would be sitting on my baby’s head – it seemed impossible to sit down – but somehow I got into the wheelchair, half suspending myself with my arms so I wouldn’t rest on my pelvic floor.

In the delivery room, things moved quickly; the room was freezing, so someone put a blanket over me. There was a strange background noise, and Chris realized that the TV was on and he had to ask them to turn it off (what the HELL??) Victoria gave me sips of coconut water while I kneeled on the bed and leaned on the top half of the bed, which was angled up. I can only describe the pushing contractions as overwhelming and scary, as though I was hanging on to myself by a thread.

The common metaphor for labor is running a marathon, but I would describe it more like rock-climbing without a safety – I had to reach for the next hand-hold, and each one seemed physically impossible and took all of my strength, but there was no other option.

Victoria’s voice came in as if from a distance, prompting me through short inhales and lonnngg exhales to breathe the baby down (there was even a nurse contradicting her and saying long in-breath; but Victoria knew the Hypnobirthing style of breathing I had been practicing). She reminded me to visualize a thousand-petal lotus to encourage openness. Someone gave me an oxygen mask. Somehow I moved to a standing position, leaning on the side of the bed. Chris said I lamented the fact that the monitors were still on me (honestly I don’t remember feeling the elastic band at this point; it was more of the awareness that I was attached to the machine); Dr. F asked the resident to take them off, and she said, “Really?” (The nerve.)

I was getting tired (so they say), so Victoria asked if they had a birthing stool – they didn’t (who knows why Birthing Center rooms have useful things but L&D rooms don’t?); but Dr. F said a segment of the bed dropped down to make it essentially like one. These last few contractions were super intense, and I remember a sense of changing from focusing on keeping my body very still, relaxed and calm, to mentally letting myself get swept along in the contraction. I felt the burning, which was scary, but somehow I also knew that if I relaxed/lowered my pelvic floor things would move along quickly, so I went with them.

As soon as I moved into the sitting/squatting position of the chair-like delivery bed, baby came rocketing out of me all at once! Chris said he and Dr. F and Victoria’s hands all shot down so the baby wouldn’t land in a bucket, and he and the doctor scooped him up to put him on my chest. It’s hazy, but I remember saying, “Is it over?” Hahaha! I had my moment of shock and awe as I gazed at Luca’s round little face, his warm body covered with a blanket. He had lots of dark hair like I hoped and such a sweet, squishy face. Chris cut the cord so the baby could reach my nipple; Luca latched, and we were so happy.

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The golden hour passed quickly, but I didn’t even mind when they took him away to go under the warmer briefly (Chris was with him) – I was so relieved and sort of dazed. MY OB gave me two stitches, which was quite painful. He said I could have given birth in a field, and that I lost very little blood. The three of us then went to Postpartum and I had some rest. I don’t remember who diapered and dressed Luca, but he never left my side in the little bassinet.

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There were two moments I remember that reminded me why I chose to give birth drug-free. One was my stepfather remarking about the baby that evening, “He’s so alert!” The other was the first time a postpartum nurse came in; she asked what my pain level was on the chart, and I just stared at her thinking, “Huh?” I had two Motrin, and continued to take it on and off for about a week postpartum.

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Everyone comments on how cheerful and calm my son is, and I’m thankful to my birth team and thankful for my quick postpartum recovery.

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