When you're pregnant, it's remarkable how many people want to share their birth stories with you. However, people wanted to tell me about the pain or sudden complications they faced. In order to have the birth I envisioned for my daughter, I decided to ignore all these story tellers. Surprisingly, my answer was to turn to the internet. Here, I found a multitude of positive birth stories. Reading these anecdotes helped remove most of my fears associated with childbirth. These stranger's stories educated and most importantly, encouraged me. I want to share my story with the hopes that maybe I too can inspire and inform another mom to be.
To preface my story, I wanted to welcome our daughter in a gentle way. We settled on a hospital birth, but we knew a birth doula would be the answer to keeping me in labor in the comfort of our home for as long as possible. I told my doctors that I would be pursuing an unmedicated birth and I'm sure most of them laughed at me after I left the exam room. (I know this approach isn't for everyone and I could go on and on as to why I wanted this but if you're interested please send me a message and I would be happy to answer any of your questions!)
September 1, 2015, Ava's due date, came and passed with no signs that she was ready to make an appearance. Since I had a healthy pregnancy, the doctors allowed me to go two weeks past my due date and our induction was scheduled for the night of September 14th. With each day that passed, I grew increasingly frustrated and anxious, as I wanted to avoid being induced at all costs. For the next 13 days, I did everything I could to jumpstart labor - acupuncture, yoga, walking miles (even up and down the Williamsburg Bridge!), going for a massage, and eating all the food known to start labor. If you Google natural ways to induce labor, I did it all.
On the night of September 12th, after eating spicy drunken noodles from our favorite Thai place, I started to have very mild cramping. The cramps come and go every other hour, so I chalked it up to false labor. I took a bath, waddled into bed, listened to a meditation and drifted off to sleep. I woke up Sunday morning, upset that nothing progressed. In an attempt to distract me, my husband, Matt, and I took our dog for a walk. We stopped at our favorite coffee shop and then again at the market to pick up brownie mix (because pregnancy cravings are real!). On our walk home, I had to pause and find a bench due to a contraction that lasted about 90 seconds. This was more intense than what I experienced the night before. It was about 11am when we got home and I baked my brownies and attempted to lay down and rest. However, my one contraction an hour started to become more frequent and I felt a strong urge to be upright. I alternated between sitting on an exercise ball and kneeling over the couch during my contractions. Things progressed quickly in the afternoon and by 5pm my contractions were around 7 minutes apart. My doula, Erica, came over to help at this point.
I read that women often fall into a rhythm while they're in active labor and this was so true for me. I remained on the exercise ball for a couple of hours and during each contraction I dug my hands into Matt's sides and buried my head into his stomach, while Erica pushed on my back. In between, I swayed my hips from side to side and Erica would alternate heat and ice packs on my lower back. Matt and Erica did a great job reminding me to breathe during my contractions and guiding me through meditations to relax my body in between each surge. It's amazing what the power of breath can do. When I focused on breathing, the contractions felt manageable and tolerable. When the breath was interrupted and shallow, I felt panicked and the pain became excruciating.
Around 7:30pm, Erica suggested that I move to the bathroom. Begrudgingly, I got up from the exercise ball and sat on the toilet and like magic, my water broke. The pace rapidly picked up from this point and I went through the transitional phase of labor on our way down to the parking garage. I was exhausted, trying to cope with 90 second contractions that were occurring every two minutes. We had to stop about 5 times before I got in the car.
The only part of childbirth that I feared was getting into the car and driving to the hospital. I did not want to be the girl who gave birth in the Queens Midtown Tunnel. Thankfully, it was a Sunday night and the ride from Brooklyn to the East Side was quick and traffic free. Much to my surprise, I only had one contraction in the car and it felt like a break compared to the ones I experienced earlier. I also felt an intense urge to push and I just closed my eyes and prayed that we got to the hospital fast... and in one piece!
I'm so glad Matt and Erica kept me at home for as long as possible. We arrived at the hospital around 8:45pm and I was 10cm dilated... and Ava's head was crowning! When we got to the labor and delivery floor no one seemed to notice us. I later found out that the nurses didn't think I was in labor because I was so quiet. Thankfully, Erica was assertive and told them I was about to have the baby in the wheelchair. We skipped triage and I quickly stripped down and threw the hospital gown over my belly. There was no time to be bashful and I wanted to make sure I got that skin to skin immediately. With each urge to push, I trusted my body and breathed Ava down and out at 9:20pm on Sunday, September 13. Right after they placed Ava's tiny body on my bare chest I exclaimed, "That wasn't so bad!" and everyone laughed. Ava was born alert, healthy and ready to eat!
The next day I jokingly said to Matt that I did not feel like the calm and collected moms in the videos shown in our Hypnobirthing class. However, the biggest compliment came from my OB. When she checked on me the following day, she said she couldn't believe how zen and relaxed I was. Guess I didn't appear so frenzied on the outside! I honestly believe that I was able to have the unmedicated, natural birth that I prepared for because I actually looked forward to experiencing childbirth.
And in case you are wondering, no, I sadly did not get to eat any of the brownies I made!