Finding Renewed Trust & Confidence: A Birth Story

I am a childhood abuse survivor and so I didn’t have confidence or trust in my body. That lack of confidence was reinforced when my first birth, a planned natural birth, resulted in a painful and highly medicated induction. I suffered post-partum depression for over a year after the birth. But I am blessed because though I was defeated in spirit, I had great support. When I told my husband, Rob, that I was changing my care to a group of Certified Nurse Midwives who deliver at a local hospital he stood behind me. We did not know it at the time, but the choice to change my provider became one of the pivotal moments in my recovery as a survivor, and monumentally improved my joy in mothering and my marriage.

 

When I discovered I was pregnant again, I fearfully avoided my first prenatal appointment for 12 weeks. My previous doctor wasn’t nurturing. When he checked me he did it in such a way that I was left feeling violated. No “cold touch.” No “gentle pressure.” No bed-side manner. He just walked in, “I’m going to check your cervix.” Check. “Everything looks normal.” It wasn’t his intention to make me feel bad, but when you’re an abuse survivor it’s not unlike being abused again. My midwives gave me care which chipped away at my fears. They talked with me about my feelings about my past birth and my future hopes and concerns, not just my medical history. They treated my whole person. I was more than a body which happened to be wrapped around a baby. Our first appointment lasted over an hour. I felt safe in their care. But I still didn’t feel confident in my self.

 

My due date came and went– nine days, ten days, eleven, twelve– I feared I was unable to go into labor. My midwives gave me the best standard of care and monitored my baby’s health. They trusted my body to go into labor eventually and encouraged me to be patient. On the evening of my thirteenth day post-due my contractions finally started, 15 minutes apart, and I tried to prepare myself to welcome my baby to the world.

 

I called Rob from work, and I drove my daughter to my in-laws’ home and called the midwife. She told me to hang out at  home until I felt I needed more support or contractions were coming very close together. Bedtime came, and Rob put our daughter to bed. I labored quietly in the living room while my husband’s family went to sleep. Everything was normal, peaceful.

 

In the back of my head I feared things progressing, feared going to the hospital and what would happen to me once I got there. Would my body do its work? Would I have spent 7 hours in labor just to be dilated to 2 cm when we finally arrived? As night turned into early morning we decided to make the trip to the hospital. My fears escalated as we arrived. I was defensive towards the nurses and Rob, nervous my labor would stall.

 

When my midwife arrived, she brought her calming presence with her. Within thirty minutes she had the lights turned down, and every unnecessary person removed from the room. She gave Rob instructions on how to rub my back. The three of us fell into a rhythm. Rocking, massaging, humming, moaning… finally I relaxed. Finally I felt like things were the way they should be. I joked between contractions. I was actually enjoying being in labor!

 

Suddenly, I felt the urge to vomit and my contractions started bashing on top each other. I had been lying on my side in bed and I called out for help. While I lay shaking and panting in the bed, my midwife and nurse filled the labor tub with warm water. I climbed in as soon as I could. Laboring wasn’t fun anymore, it was harder work and I had to focus, but I was still calm and relaxed. My midwife leaned against the side of the tub and talked me through contractions, Rob poured warm water down my back with each one and I focused on the sensation of water going down. It was just an hour until I began feeling the urge to push.

 

I don’t know if it’s because of my past abuse, or if it’s common to become fearful during the pushing phase of labor, but I suddenly became panicked. I was thrashing around the tub crying, “Help me!” splashing everywhere. I tried to get up and leave. I was holding back against the pushes, trying to escape my own urges. I will be forever thankful for what came next. My midwife grabbed my arms and looked right into my eyes saying, “Hold it together. Your body is strong, and you can do this. You need to hold it together and your baby will be here.” I started to sob in her arms, “I need to you help me. Help me please.” My heart was breaking because I was so afraid of what I would think of myself if I couldn’t push my baby out on my own. “Moan low. And push into the pain. Push your baby through the pain.” Ten minutes later my beautiful daughter was born into the water and placed on my chest. I rested there with her, relief and joy in my heart. She barely even cried, she just nestled in to me. Rob beamed with pride. We had overcome the obstacles and done it.

 

The next morning the second midwife from the practice came to visit me to see how my birth had gone. I told her how it had been so peaceful except the end. But I had managed to keep it together and go naturally. Besides my pride in my accomplishment, her words built me up: “You are powerful. You birthed a baby. You can do anything.” That was truth.

 

I took that confidence and power home with me from the hospital. Unlike after my first birth, I suffered no post-partum depression. I started to trust my instincts more. I began to be more open-hearted to Rob and my daughters. I don’t want to pretend that one event changed my whole life, but in some ways it did. My natural birth experience was the first time someone other than my husband trusted and respected my body. I was expected to be powerful, and I was! My daughter’s birth was a foundation of confidence that I can build my strength upon. It can’t be taken from me.

 

Devona Brazier is a wife and mother of three lovely daughters living in Akron, OH. She works to support pregnant and breastfeeding women through La Leche League membership and studying to her Lamaze Educator Certification. She enjoys kickboxing, running, hiking and sewing. She blogs at tobravebirth.com

Great Expectations: Pamela’s Birth Story

39 weeks and 4 days.  I had what I think was my first contraction around 7:15am while I was cuddling in bed with my boys.  I didn’t necessarily believe it was a contraction since up to this point I had had three nights of contractions that went from about 2am until 3am and then stopped.  The day before I went into labor I felt terrible; my body ached, I was in a tough place emotionally, and I truly thought I was going to be pregnant forever.  After I got out of bed I went about my morning trying to keep time on my contractions.  I called Thad around 8am and told him I had a few contractions but I couldn’t keep track of their pattern; they were somewhere between 10-15 minutes apart but not consistent.  He said he was going to leave the office right away but I told him I wasn’t sure if this was it.  He said he’d rather be home than miss anything so he came home.  I was standing in my kitchen trying to keep track of my contractions by my last made calls/texts to my husband, doula, and midwife.  By 8:45am my husband came home and he asked his mom to stay home in case she needed to take the boys out of the house.  I remember walking to the bathroom (I was making very frequent trips to the bathroom that morning which was a good indicator that I was truly in labor) around 9am and had to hang on to my dresser to get through a contraction.  My midwife, Marilee, called to check on me and said she was on her way and my doula texted me to tell her when we needed her help.  Around 9:30am my friend, Amanda, came by to pick up the cookies for our cookie exchange that morning and my mother-in-law was getting the boys and dog into the car and I had a long, intense contraction that had me on my knees hanging on to the banister with tears in my eyes.  Active labor began!  Dash, my younger son, was very concerned seeing me in pain and I was grateful that they would not be there for labor despite my initial wants of having them in the house for labor and/or the birth.  I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on labor if they were there.  I remember Marilee walking into the house while I was groaning through a contraction and I heard her say, “Those are good sounds,” and it finally occurred to me that this kid was going to be born that day.  It was around 9:45am.

I made it downstairs in between contractions to see Thad busy at work filling the aqua doula (birth pool), Marilee setting up supplies, and I helped by setting up my iPod for music (I will post my labor/birth playlist soon) and setting up my diffuser (I used doTerra’s Balance blend for grounding).  I was having a hard time getting comfortable through contractions because I couldn’t quite tell where I was having pressure.  Was the pressure on my bottom or my perineum or my back? I couldn’t tell, so I couldn’t figure out what position to be in for maximum comfort as I worked through my contractions.  All I knew was that I did not want to be standing up, so I tried being on all fours (which was tolerable) or sitting on the toilet and/or the birthing stool (which was more tolerable but not perfect).  I even tried hanging off the corner of my sectional but it was not quite right.  My doula, Mary Beth, arrived around 10:15am and she jumped right in and helped ground me through my contractions.  She helped me relax and used essential oils (we used Iris Oils 4 pack for childbirth) for scent and massage.  Thad sat behind me to hold my shoulders down during contractions (so I wouldn’t tense up) and Mary Beth sat in front of me between my legs.  They took turns feeding me pineapple and/or pomegranate seeds and giving me sips of water to keep me hydrated.  I felt encapsulated in love.

Around 10:45am after I went to the bathroom I stood there crying.  In pain, I cried worrying about whether or not my son would love me.  In retrospect, I realize this irrational worry was a sign of transition, and apparently so did everyone in the room because Marilee, Thad, and Mary Beth held me in the bathroom as I cried.  When I got out of the bathroom I complained that I couldn’t get into a comfortable position and Marilee wisely suggested the aqua doula.

Once I lowered myself into the pool I had instant relief.  I can’t believe I didn’t have a pool with all my babies!  The water was warm, soothing, and I instantly felt like it lifted everywhere I was feeling pressure. The counter-pressure was so helpful in managing the pain, it was just amazing. We labored in the pool as the contractions became stronger – at this point I was still able to talk or joke a bit between them; I distinctly remember joking with the birth team over my husband’s dismay when Celine Dion came on the playlist.

The period for talking soon ended – the break between contractions was shortening and the contractions themselves were getting much stronger. I remember asking Marilee why I wasn’t getting a break, and what I should be doing, and she kept saying, “You’re doing it.” Sometime around noon I was really working hard – I remember feeling tired for the first time, and concerned about how long the labor would take – would I still have the energy to push effectively at the end? Mary Beth kept me hydrated with water and Gatorade, and I continually sought positions that would relieve pressure from my back. I remember leaning back with my husband’s hand supporting my back, leaning back in an almost hurdler pose with one leg extended, squatting upright and swirling my hips, and finally shifting to all fours in the pool, which would become my final birthing position.

At one point well into active labor, I asked if there was anything for pain relief, and after a brief silence, Marilee replied “You’re sitting in it.”

In retrospect, now I know the various positions and movements were all what Simon needed me to do to safely enter the world. While I was deep in active labor, I had to release the negative thoughts that spun through my head. I questioned whether I had done enough. I had thoughts of being ill prepared, of his size, of my abilities to actually get him out, of possible rupture, and I realized I was at a point of no return, and in releasing those thoughts, I started to unintentionally push. My midwife does not normally dictate pushing; she allows the body to do what it needs to do. With Dash’s birth, she told me when to push because she saw that I was getting tired and needed to help me focus. This time, my body just did what it needed to do, and unbeknownst to both my husband and me, I was pushing.

I noticed Marilee was behind me by the pool, and Leigh Ann (her assistant) was holding tools of some sort. I had no concept of time at this point – I don’t know exactly when I began to push, or for how long I pushed. I don’t know if it’s because I was in the water, or because the bag of waters was intact, but I had no idea how close he was to being born. I remember Mary Beth asking my midwife if she “catches in the water,” (she does) and it hit me that we were going to meet him soon. It’s a crime that in some places women have to get out of the tub to deliver – I can’t imagine how hard that must be.

My groans became grunts, and bearing down with each contraction became instinctive. Whatever people say, you truly poop a baby out. The sensation is low and deep, and no other sensation can be compared to it other than pooping.

Thad was in front of me, supporting my weight and helping me focus. His strength and faith in me took away any fear I had in pushing. It started to burn up towards my clitoris, and I still had no idea where he was. My midwife never told me how much she could see, but in watching the birth video, he was beginning to crown. My midwife put her hands on me to help guide him out, and when she touched me, I was afraid that I was going to suck him back up into my body. When I watched the video and saw the moment she touched me, I didn’t realize just how close he was to being born.

I was pushing and Marilee told me that my bag of waters was intact, that there was a lot of vernix in there, and that his head was almost out. Thad told me that the time to slow down (to prevent tearing) was coming, but all I could feel was pressure and stretching – I didn’t realize his head was already out. It took my doula and husband telling me that his head was out before I grasped, emotionally and physically, that he was about to be born. My sac was still intact at this point and Marilee asked if I wanted her to puncture it – I told her to do whatever would relieve some pressure. On his way out, she made a small puncture to help him glide out.  I don’t know if other women who birth in water have felt the same way, but I truly had no idea how much he was out at each contraction.

While waiting for the next contraction, I felt stretched to the absolute max, and Thad and I maintained steady eye contact to help me stay open. It was during the next contraction that he was born – I was still bearing down and pushing when I heard Marilee say, “He’s out – reach down and take your baby – be careful, his cord is short.” I couldn’t believe that I was actually pulling him to my chest. I rested him on my breast, he let out a cry, and the flood of emotions completely overwhelmed me. What broke my trance was Marilee saying to me, “You just birthed a direct OP baby.” For those of you who don’t know what that means, he was posterior, sunny side up, and he came out gently, which is extremely unusual for babies in that position. In fact, part of the reason why Julian was born by cesarean is because he was posterior.  Despite all the work I was doing to get him into optimum birthing position, I think his short cord was the reason he kept spinning into posterior. It just goes to show you, babies have their own plans.

Once he was born, we completed all the particulars – getting out of the pool, cutting the cord, prenatal exam, passing the placenta (which took about 45-50 minutes), and of course ordering some pizza. The entire birth team was in high spirits, the sun was still up, and they would be home in time to have dinner with their families – Simon Edgar Winston Lurie was born at 1:06pm. He was 7 lbs. 5 oz. and 21 inches long.  ”Edgar” is for my father.  Simon was born on the 11th anniversary of his passing, which was also our original due date.  I couldn’t think of a better way to honor my father.  ”Winston” is our street name since he was born in our family room. 

We had the obligatory family text and Facebook post, and by 4pm it was just the three of us, snuggling on the couch and soaking up every moment of our perfect birth and perfect son.  By 4:30pm the boys came bounding into the house to meet their new brother.  The postpartum period has been an emotional roller coaster and I will use my next post to talk more to postpartum care and healing.  For now, I will return my arms to my little 3-week old babe waiting for mama’s milk and snuggles.  Life is good.

A Story of Labor on Labor Day: Kerri & Baby Eagan

The following birth story was submitted to Lamaze as part of the Push for Your Baby campaign’s “Push Story Sharing” giveaway. 

My Birth: A Great Sense of Empowerment and Happiness

By Kerri Stephen, Minneola, FL

It was Friday, August 19, 2011, my late father’s birthday. Would this be the big day? Time would tell. For the moment, I drove into work. The day passed as a normal day until around noon. The tightening in my belly left my stomach feeling as hard as a rock. My stomach tightening and relaxing was beginning to increase in length and frequency. It wasn’t enough to keep me from working.

Five o’clock came, and I drove home thinking, “This is it!” After arriving home, I began experiencing what felt like intense menstrual cramps. My baby was coming! Mark, my husband, was at work and wouldn’t be home until later. I restrained from calling him wanting to save the surprise for when he got home.

The contractions were becoming more intense. I thought, “So this is what it feels like to be in labor. It will be painful, but I can and will get through this.” I walked around the house and practiced breathing like I had learned in my childbirth class.

When Mark got home we went for a walk outside. When we returned, I assured Mark to get some rest. I wanted him ready to support me when I would need him later.

I tried to lie down to sleep. I closed my eyes between contractions and prepared for the next one. I discovered that moaning during them made the pain less. Sounds weird, maybe, but it worked for me. At 3 a.m., the noise must’ve awoken Mark. He suggested we call my midwife who was ready to meet us at the birthing center.

With an uncomfortable drive, I was glad to receive a warm greeting from my midwife. She checked to see I was five centimeters dilated and praised me for managing so well this far on my own. That gave me further confidence to achieve my goal of a natural birth.

We made ourselves at home in the cozy, bedroom-like room and got soothing music playing. Having discussed my birth plan with my midwife in advance, she knew to give me privacy. I had freedom to move and walk around, and the baby’s heart rate and my blood pressure were checked periodically. I appreciated the reminders from Mark to eat and drink water. Mark tried massages that we practiced in our childbirth class. Now that I was in labor, I didn’t want to be touched. I’m sure Mark felt helpless, but having him respect my needs and his presence alone was what I needed.

Around 2 pm, there was no mistaking the urge to push. My natural instincts took over. After half an hour of pushing, I felt physically exhausted and wondered, “Would I be able to push this baby out?” With words of encouragement, I drew all my strength. At 2:32 p.m., baby boy, Eagan, was born just two days before his due date. While not on my dad’s birthday, it was Mark’s mom’s birthday. Eagan was placed on my chest. After the cord had finished pulsing, my husband cut it. I soon after breastfed. After just a few hours of giving birth, dad, and a healthy mom and baby headed home. I walked away with a great sense of empowerment, happiness, and an adrenaline high that would linger for days.

I was fortunate to be referred to a midwife for my prenatal care. When I first started my care I envisioned delivering in a hospital. That’s how everyone I knew delivered, including my mom. After doing research, including taking a childbirth class, I decided on a natural birth. My husband supported me, but I felt let down by family and friends. With all the research I’d done, having a natural childbirth seemed like the healthiest choice for my baby. The childbirth class taught me different labor positions and alternative ways for coping with labor pain, helping me mentally prepare, and gave me self-confidence.

Eagan’s advancements continue to amaze me. I contribute that to taking responsibility for his health before and during my pregnancy and delivery. When it comes to childbirth, have confidence in yourself and your ability to get through labor. Many fears or questions I had were answered by listening to my body.

A Happy Birth-Day Birth Story


In honor of my youngest turning one today, I am reposting her birth story! It was, by far, one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had. I can’t help but keep remembering her birth moments during this week. Do you think about your birth on your child’s birthday? (PS: Here’s a picture of Vivian today!)

 

 

 

 

 

A Birth Story — Cara & Baby Vivian

On the night that I finally went into labor, I was 40 weeks and 6 days and had been having contractions about 10 minutes apart for about 36 hours. I also had three previous episodes of what I thought was the beginning of labor that later stopped. To say that I was ready to meet my baby is an understatement! Between 9 and 11 that evening, my contractions were uncomfortable and noticeable, but not very painful and never any closer than 8 minutes apart. Around 11 pm, however, things started to pick up, both in pain and frequency. I had to get into a variety of positions, breathe and vocalize through each one. After a handful of contractions like that, my husband and I thought it best to call our doula, our babysitters and our midwife. I had guessed that my contractions were about 5 minutes apart, but after watching me, my husband said they were more like 3 minutes. (I had no idea; by that point, I could not focus on a clock.) We agreed that it was definitely time to go to the hospital. Amazingly, I had the awareness (in between contractions) to pack my kids’ backpacks for school, email a friend to cancel a playdate scheduled for the next day, and grab a plastic bag and towel for the car ride — just in case.

The car ride to the hospital was an experience I’d rather not repeat in this lifetime. I knelt in the back seat, feeling every twist and turn and dealing with contractions by bracing myself against the seat back, breathing and moaning. When we arrived, we entered through the emergency room since it was after hours. I remember passing by a handful of people while wearing my nightgown, hugely pregnant and clearly in active labor. One woman congratulated me. Upon entering, I told the admitting nurse that I would not be riding in a wheel chair to labor and delivery — there was no way I could manage contractions while sitting in a chair! On the way to L&D, I had about 4 contractions. Each time, I would stop, close my eyes, drop to the ground, try and breathe (though it was getting tough), and vocalize.

When we entered the delivery room, it was dim, there was just one or two nurses and everyone was speaking to me very quietly and respectfully. My assigned nurse was someone who enjoyed assisting women birthing naturally (yay!) and was so accommodating to my state of labor. My doula arrived shortly after we got into the room. Per protocol, the nurse wanted to perform a vaginal exam (which I was ok with since I too wanted to know my progress) and get a few minutes of fetal monitoring. Because my contractions were coming hard and fast, we timed the exam in between a contraction so I could lay down and then quickly get back up to prepare for the next contraction. She checked me and revealed that I was 4-5cm. What?? I was sure that, based on the intensity of my contractions, I would be closer to 7 or 8cm. As soon as I stood back up after the exam and had another contraction, I heard a snapping sound and my water broke with intense force, all over the hospital floor. I clearly remember thinking, “Gross, what a mess!” While the nurse finagled with the fetal monitors around my belly to get a clear reading of the baby’s heart rate, I climbed onto the bed to try and better cope with the next contraction. I knelt on the bed and asked my doula and nurse to raise up the back of the bed so I could have something to brace myself against. During this time, my doula and nurse attempted to comfort me by providing counter pressure and rubbing my back — nothing felt good and I quickly asked them to stop. I was at the point in labor where I didn’t want anyone touching me! After a couple of contractions, I felt pressure and a slight burning. I told my nurse, “I think I’m ready to push!” The nurse, who had been monitoring the baby’s heart rate and was still entering my information into the computer, lifted up my skirt (I had changed into my Binsi labor skirt upon arriving) and saw that the baby’s head was in fact crowning!

At this point, the only people in the room were my husband, my doula and the charge nurse. My midwife was still on her way (she was coming down the hall, I later found out). When my nurse saw that baby was crowning, she quickly left the room and brought back a team of people, including my midwife. There was a flurry of activity and the atmosphere in the room was serious but energized. I was slightly aware of what was happening in the room, but mostly focused on what was happening with me. As the baby descended, I could tell that I needed to provide more room as it felt like she was hitting my pubic bone. Still kneeling, I lifted out my right leg (modified Captain Morgan pose, ha!) to open up my pelvis. As she started to further emerge, I instinctively reached down to support my perineum (and because it hurt!). What I felt was not what I expected to feel — a gooey, mushy, round protrusion. I guess I had expected it to feel more solid. After her head was out, the midwife reached in to unwrap the cord from around her neck — yeowch, that did not feel nice! Shortly after, with a few more pushes, she was fully out. The relief was immediate and amazing. Since I was facing away from the midwife, she handed the baby to me through my legs so I could hold her for the first time. As I reached to grab her, all I could think to do was to find out the gender — no one had yet said anything about the baby being boy or girl. When I saw that she was a girl, I announced it to the room and sat in complete shock! My husband and I both thought that we would be having our third boy. She was not yet crying and took a little while to make noise, but she soon started wriggling and worked out a cry. The midwife and staff were respectful of my wishes to hold her skin-to-skin and allow the cord to stop pulsing before clamping. When they finally did take her to perform some extra suctioning (the birth was so fast, she had a lot of extra fluid in her), the nurse asked about diapering and wrapping her and I declined — I wanted to see and hold all of her, not a little burrito blanket baby! Everyone in the room was SO accommodating to every last one of my requests, down to the littlest detail like bringing our own baby wash for her first bath; no one showed any attitude or made me feel like someone else was calling the shots. It was awesome.

To get an idea of just how fast this whole experience was — we were checking into the delivery room at 12:50 am and Vivian was born at 1:16 am. It wasn’t until we were moved to a recovery room that I had time to digest what had just happened. I was elated that I was able to have the low intervention and med-free experience that I so longed for, and I was so pleased with how I was treated by everyone in the hospital. At the same time, the way in which the birth scene played out was intense and at times, a little scary. I won’t lie — when I was upright and pushing, I was frightened at the warp speed timing of everything. It was like a freight train with no brakes — there was no stopping the process! Now that I’ve had a week to reflect on the experience, I am just so happy. Birth is definitely a mix of preparation and luck, and thankfully, I had both on my side.

Last Chance: “Push” Blog Writing Contest & Giveaway

The Push for Your Baby blog writing contest and giveaway deadline is next Wednesday, August 15. Share your childbirth story to connect with other moms and earn a chance to win baby items!

Calling all moms, dads, and partners! You’ve been through the big day and now it’s your turn to tell expecting parents about what you’ve learned along the way. Share your childbirth story with us in a written or video blog and you could win a baby product from Lamaze and Tomy.com.

Our panel of judges will select three written and three video blogs to receive the following:

  • First Place: Lamaze car seat, provided by TOMY (approx. value $220.00)
  • Second Place: GC Brands Childrenswear Baby Wardrobe (approx. value $150)
  • Third Place: Selection of Lamaze baby toys and books, provided by TOMY(approx. value $100)

For your entry, take some time to reflect on your baby’s birth day and share your answers to these questions:

Push for Your Baby!

  • Why do you think it’s important for parents to push for the best care for mom and baby during labor and birth?

Childbirth education?

  • How did Lamaze childbirth education help you push for the safest, healthiest birth?
  • Did dad or your partner take childbirth education? How did it help support you on your baby’s birth day?
  • What’s the most important thing that you learned in Lamaze class that helped you push for the safest, healthiest birth possible for your baby?

Advice for other parents?

  • Based on your own experiences, what’s the one thing you would tell new, expecting parents about preparing for baby’s birth day?

How to Enter

Using the form here, submit your entry no later than Wednesday, August 15, 2012. We will announce the prize winners on August 1. All blogs* will be published on the Push for Your Baby Campaign website and the first place blogs will be posted to the home pages of Lamaze.org and PushforYourBaby.com, as well as on Giving Birth with Confidence and shared via Lamaze’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

*Before being posted on the website, each blog post will be reviewed for appropriate content. Blogs found to be insulting, profane or otherwise inappropriate will not be posted.

Entry Requirements

Video should be no longer than three minutes in length and posted on YouTube. Written entries should be no longer than 700 words. Our panel of judges will evaluate entries on narrative (as defined above), originality and creativity.

The Lamaze “Push for Your Baby” campaign encourages women to advocate for better care for their babies and themselves. With the right information and education, women have the opportunity to be active partners in their care during pregnancy and birth. This campaign is designed to help women be ‘savvy shoppers’ and prepared to seek out the best care for their babies and themselves.

Great Expectations: The Birth Story of Meagan & Baby Adelyn

Congratulations to the Giving Birth with Confidence Great Expectations blogger, Meagan, who gave birth to a beautiful baby girl on January 26. Below is the story of her birth to baby number 3. 

 

This being my third pregnancy, you’d think I was a pro at giving birth. Well, after my 16-hour labor with number one, you’d think that would earn me some sort of pro status. Even still, I know that every birth is different and that scared me. Going in to my third pregnancy, I had certain reservations because my first two had gone so well. Could I be so lucky once again? I felt my time was running out. Not to mention the fact that my open-mindedness from my first pregnancy was becoming a lot more closed off. I did a good amount of research for my first and had a good sense for what I hoped for in the birth. But having done far more reading and fact gathering, my mind was beginning to close off and strongly oppose certain options I had previously been open to. I began to have this feeling that if things didn’t go as planned, I would somehow be disappointed and left to deal with those emotions post-partum. So how did it all turn out? Let’s start at the beginning….

On Wednesday, January 25 (five days before my due date) I woke up with mild contractions around 2:00 a.m. They came off and on without much regularity or intensity. I tried my best to sleep, but knowing that this meant the end was near, task lists and details began running through my head. I got little sleep that night. The contractions did not increase at all as I went about my day. I hesitated telling anyone because I assumed I still had plenty of time. I did tell my husband before he left for work and I also called my mom. With having to make plans for the whereabouts of the two older kids, I needed to at least inform a few people. But I refrained from making any Facebook status updates. After all, I had a history of going post-due. Would this child really come before the due date?

Around 9:00 p.m. they began to come more regularly, but were still not intense. I started to think that perhaps the baby would be arriving soon since both my first labors had followed this same pattern of early morning contractions followed by little action the next day and then active labor that night. But I was still having a difficult time making a decision as to whether or not the grandparents should get in place for the kids. I had a fear that this wasn’t going to progress into active labor and then my parents would’ve had a sleepless night on our couches for no reason. At 11:30 p.m., I was still being indecisive, but called Mom anyway. We finally decided it would be best if they came up since it would take an hour for them to get here and we didn’t want things to progress faster than they could drive.

Around 1:30 a.m., my parents were in place and we headed to bed. I slept for about an hour when sleep no longer became an option. My contractions were growing in intensity and coming more frequently though their spacing was not completely consistent. They would be 7 minutes followed by 10 minutes apart and then down to 5 minutes. Back and forth they’d go. So, I laid there, breathing through them, still in denial that I was heading into active labor. Finally around 4:30 a.m., I woke Matt to say that he should probably get dressed because we might want to consider going to the hospital at some point. Yes, I was still indecisive even though they were getting to be as close as 4 minutes apart. The thing is, the pain was tolerable. I was still breathing through them. I had begun rocking and swaying to ease through them, but in between, I was still talking and joking just fine. My history had been that once into active labor, I stopped talking and shut out the world around me until delivery.

After getting dressed and packing my bag, the contractions had slowed slightly, so instead of heading out the door, we watched an episode of “30 Rock.” I might’ve missed a joke or two here or there, but otherwise I was still focusing on the show. If it weren’t for the fact that my contraction counter app was saying the contractions were back down to 4 minutes apart, I probably would’ve fired up another show. Instead, we decided to head to the hospital.

On the way there, one of my fears began to come true. To this day, I am certain that part of the reason my first labor was so long is because I went to the hospital too soon, which caused me to stall. After reading Ina May Gaskin’s thoughts on the sphincter law, I understand how such a transition can cause labor to actually reverse to a certain degree. I still wonder how things would’ve gone differently with my first delivery had I stayed home longer. So, when my contractions slowed with this one and I had only one on the way there, I was afraid we were regressing. While it was great that I wasn’t squirming and contorting my body the entire way to the hospital, it was upsetting because that meant the last two contractions were 10 minutes apart. I began to wonder if we’d made the wrong call. Should we have watched more Hulu before heading in?

We walked into the hospital at 5:30 a.m. I was still clear minded and able to talk. Again, I doubted whether or not this was for real. In triage, I was able to answer all of the nurse’s questions and even cracked a few jokes. When I arrived during labor #2, I was near transition and was 9.5 cm dilated. There was no joking at that point. When the resident finally checked me, I was very relieved to hear I was 7 cm and would be heading to my birthing room soon. And the tub was already being prepared for me.

The tub was part of my birth plan. I had labored in it with #1 for a long time, but got out before delivering. I wanted to attempt a water birth with #2, but she arrived too quickly to even make it into the tub. The nurse asked if I wanted to just labor or actually birth in the water. I told her definitely labor, but I still wasn’t sure about birthing. She went on to encourage me to try a water birth. She said it was really amazing. I was so impressed that she was actually recommending a water birth. That put me at ease for being in the hospital where hands-on interventions can oftentimes trump natural experiences.

The tub was ready for me once we got into the delivery room. My midwife hadn’t arrived yet, but the nurse helped me into the tub. The water felt great and offered some relief as my contractions gained intensity. Even still, I was talking in between contractions and at times thinking to myself, “Okay, let’s get this show on the road and have this baby already.” Then transition hit.

I had horrendous back labor with my first two pregnancies. So far, the back labor hadn’t hit with this one. But once I entered transition, I began to feel it with full force. I had taken somewhat of a squatting position in the tub, leaning over the backside of it, so Matt could rub my lower back through each contraction. This was his main role in the first two labors and we joked that he nearly rubbed off his fingerprints during both. By this time, my midwife had arrived, but was with another woman who was near delivering. We were told to pull the call button cord if I felt the urge to push. A nurse came in and out of the room, but for the most part, it was the two of us just hanging out, waiting for our baby and it suited us just fine. Having been through this before, we knew how to work our way through it as a team.

By now I had begun vocalizing during contractions. This was all new to me, but it helped give me release. I was embarrassed at first. After all, the door to my room was open and I thought I would scare off any laboring woman who had any inkling of trying for a natural birth. After hearing me, there was probably an increased demand for epidurals. And then the urge came on.

I had reached that point in labor when I was done. I didn’t know if I could deal with it anymore. Should I give in and get a shot of Nubain? I had in the past, but it had never done anything for me. Could I hang on? But what if I still had an hour to go? But then the urge to push hit.  Mid-contraction I yelled, “Pull the cord!” Not thinking Matt heard me the first time (though I was certainly less than quiet about it), I yelled it again. He assured me that he had pulled it and in a moment two nurses and my midwife were by my side. With the jets on in the tub, I couldn’t hear well. I thought the midwife was telling me to push. So I did. I realized later that I hadn’t been checked since I was admitted. How did I (or the midwife) know if I was complete? Well, my body knew well enough because I began pushing, which was such a relief. They asked me if I wanted to get out of the tub. At that point, I was focused on one thing: having this baby. I didn’t want to be moved. I was good where I was. Suddenly I felt the baby descending followed by my water breaking. Being able to push made the contractions so much more bearable. I had something to do, a goal and an end in sight. With some good, strong pushes, the baby was born at 7:42 a.m. on January 26.

The midwife declared, “It’s a girl!” and placed Adelyn Grace on my chest—all 8 lbs. 3 oz. and 21.5 in. of her (not too shabby for being 4 days ahead of schedule). Adelyn let out a few small whimpers and then began to fall asleep. She was so at peace, or as her name means, serene. We stayed in the tub for a while, waiting for the cord to stop pulsing. As I held Adelyn in my arms, the midwife cleaned us up and soon we were moving to the bed. As I stood, I was amazed by how good I felt. In fact, I did not require any pain relief even after birth. Sure my body needed rest and relaxation, but otherwise I felt great. The hospital gave us ample time and space to bond. We stayed in the room for a few hours. I ordered breakfast and Adelyn nursed. And nursed. And nursed.

Looking back, I am still amazed by a few things: how quickly it all went, how smooth it was, how little assistance we really needed, how peaceful she was at birth, what a great nurser she was from the start and how great I felt once labor ended. I soon realized my initial fears and hesitations were for naught. And I also realized how blessed I have been to have had the births I’ve had.

Martyr vs. Marvel: The Debate over Natural Birth

Start a public discussion on “natural” birth (vaginal birth without pain medication) and you’ll receive an avalanche of opinions and reactions that generally fall into two camps: “Give me an epidural — I’m no martyr!” or “My natural birth was amazing — I can’t imagine it any other way!”  Don’t believe me? Scan the comment section in this article on Baby Center that discusses one mom’s aversion to natural birth. As emotions heighten and passions inflame, a respectful discussion turns into finger-pointing, mockery, defensiveness and ultimately, a misunderstanding and lack of respect for each others’ point of view.

After two uncomplicated births with an epidural, I longed for a birth without pain medication. For me, the desire for a “natural” birth came from how I felt after my first two births and wanting a different, healthier experience for myself and my baby. Lying on my back, numb from the waist down, pushing to the tune of nurses counting to 10 — I felt like a passive participant in my own birth, like I was racing a marathon from the sidelines. (Note: this is how I felt, not a projection of judgement on women who choose to birth with an epidural.) My choice to go without pain meds for my third birth wasn’t about being a martyr or a “hero” — it was an informed, conscious decision that I felt was best for me and my baby. In fact, prior to the birth, I told few people of my plans simply because it didn’t matter if they knew. And after the birth of my third baby without pain meds, yes, I felt proud and triumphant. But no, there were no badges, no parades, no flag-waving of any kind. I birthed my baby the way I wanted and life continued on.

So why does the controversy persist? Why does one group insist that women who birth “au naturel” are martyrs looking for a merit badge, and why do the others pass judgement on women who say, “Give me the drugs!”

When it all boils down, it’s not about my choice vs. your choice or right vs. wrong; it’s about informed choice. True informed choice goes beyond “My doctor says epidurals are safe.” It also goes beyond “My mom thinks I should birth naturally — that’s how she did it.”  To be truly informed requires looking at and understanding the evidence surrounding choices in childbirth. It means finding a reputable source and a second opinion — your care provider and a quality childbirth education class, for example. Only then can women make the best decisions for themselves and their baby.

How did you make informed choices surrounding your birth? Were you judged for your decisions? 

 

 

What Does a Contraction Feel Like?

This is probably the most oft-asked question by first-time expectant moms, preceded only by “How will I know I’m in labor?” The textbook answer is something along the lines of, “The way a contraction feels differs from woman to woman, but in general, you will feel a all-over tightening of your uterus and pain or cramping that may begin in your lower back and radiate to the front of your uterus.” Of course, if you do a Google search or spend any time on an expectant moms’ web board, you’ll come across responses that range from “intense menstrual cramps” to “pressure and back pain.” Some women experience what they describe as very intense pain while others describe contractions as nothing more than dull, crampy aches. And, your experience with labor can also vary greatly from one child to another.

Having just [very] recently experienced labor and birth again for the third time (this time without any medical pain relief), I would describe a contraction in active labor as an all-encompassing kind of pain. There was the tell-tale uterine tightening, but then the sensation is something that is hard to describe — I felt it mainly in my abdomen, but it was so intense, my whole body reacted to the feeling. Since labor with my first child, I’ve always said that with a contraction, it’s as if there’s no way to escape it when it’s happening — you just have to succumb — but yet when each contraction is over, the pain relief is immediate and complete. I would describe the experience as intense and painful, but manageable. It was nothing my body couldn’t handle as long as I was free to move and do what helped me cope with the pain. Now, the minute I had to be confined to a certain area or position, it was awful! For example, the car ride to the hospital was NOT fun!

Here is how nine other women describe their contractions:

Throughout my pregnancy, the Braxton Hicks contractions felt like little charlie horses over the top of my belly. When I was in labor for my first child, I remember finally deciding to get the epidural and when the medicine started to work, it only worked for half of my body. One side was bearable while the other side felt like it was being squeezed and twisted as far as it would go. I couldn’t believe the difference. I would have preferred to have all or nothing! Also, having had three kids now, I will say that the difference between contractions with and without Pitocin is night and day.

–Vanessa

I think contractions feel like a combination of nasty period cramps and horrible bowel movement cramps at the same time. I know they say they start in your back, but I felt like mine started everywhere at the same time.

–Maddy

My contractions with my second pregnancy were completely different from my first. With my first, they were the textbook example of a contraction. The pain started at my sides and worked it’s way to the middle of my stomach. They started out like pretty mild menstrual cramps and then became completely unbearable. With my second labor, I suffered from pubic symphysis dysfunction and all of my contractions started in my lower back and moved to the front of my lower abdomen and into my pubic bone. They were really severe very quickly after my water broke. And with every single one I felt the urge to push. Of course, the doctors and nurses told me not to since I was only 4 cm dilated! I labored for 36 hours! I now wonder if I should have listened to my body and pushed a little it would have went faster. Who knows. Labor is a funny thing. I just learned that every labor and pregnancy will be different!

–Bri

I agree with Vanessa, contractions with Pitocin versus without it are so so different….black and white. And with my first, it was back labor so it was also totally different. They were throbbing and long and it felt like my back was going to split open. With my home birth, the contractions felt like a deep, deep ache. Deep down inside my body, almost as if the sensation of my cervix spreading combined with my son descending were like my bottom was going to fall out…but in a good way. A productive way. Thinking back, they weren’t painful as much as a feeling that snapped me into the present.

–Pamela

With my second, I felt only a long, long awful pain across my entire abdomen. From the outside, you could feel that my whole abdomen was rock hard and it felt like a charlie horse, only a million times worse. The pain didn’t change or come and go, just remained for hours. On the monitors, it was showing that I was contracting every two minutes when I got to the hospital, but again to me the pain and hardness never stopped and started, just constant. With my first son, the pain was fairly textbook as menstrual pains that got worse, deeper, and closer in time as labor progressed.

–Alicia

With each of my four births, my contractions have been different. For number one, I was induced with Pitocin. I had been planning an unmedicated birth, but was told in my childbirth education classes that it was impossible to have Pitocin without an epidural, so each contraction was a fight for the birth I wanted. Ultimately, I had an epidural that didn’t work, and I dilated completely unmedicated. The second time I was also induced with Pitocin, but was absolutely certain that I would have an unmedicated birth, so each contraction was a validation that I was strong, and could do it. With my third (I had become a doula and childbirth educator), I had absolute trust in my body, and each contraction literally felt orgasmic. They were intense, but after the peak of each one, I felt the same rush that I do after an orgasm. It was amazing! With the fourth, I was in complete denial for most of my very rapid labor, so each contraction was almost a surprise. I had intense back labor, but if I vocalized throughout the contraction it was bearable.

–Liz

With my first, I felt no Braxton Hicks or at least I didn’t know what I was feeling. My labor started with what I could only describe as a “funny feeling” in my belly…I didn’t feel cramp-like sensations or hardening until later on. As I progressed, I definitely felt the tightening, hardening feeling with intense cramps but all in my abdomen area…nothing in my back. With this one, I have been having BH contractions for quite some time. They began early on for me and the sensation felt like the baby was doing a twirling or twisting motion. Eventually, I realized that they were BH contractions and felt the classic hardening, tightening in my abdomen.

–Becky

With my first birth, they started out similar to menstrual cramps and gradually became more intense like extreme bowel movement cramps. It was that menstrual cramp feeling in the beginning, though, that distinguished them from the Braxton Hicks cramps I’d had through the pregnancy and let me know it was “real” labor. Once I was about halfway dilated it felt like one big constant contraction, with no rest in between, even though the monitors showed a brief break between them.

The contractions felt different with my second birth, though, and I wasn’t sure I was really in labor. They didn’t feel the same way they did the first time around, and my BH contractions had been so intense and uncomfortable (painful, not just the tightening feeling) the last month or two of my pregnancy, that I constantly felt like I was in early labor. My baby was “sunny side up” that time too, so more of the pain was in my back. My mother and mother-in-law had told me they never knew when they were having contractions, just felt the pressure of pushing at the end. That astonished me. My mom literally never knew when she was having contractions, just knew that she “felt funny.”

–Brittany

I am an old woman, and my kids are 14 1/2 and almost 11, so it is hard to remember the details of the sensation of contractions. I had a c-section after pushing non medicated for 5 hours with my fat, 9lb 37 week direct OP baby (occiput posterior — baby who is facing up instead of back), and a non-medicated VBAC with my second, so feel like I really got a sense of what things felt like. They started as menstrual cramps, and an ache in my lower back, moving around and increasing in intensity deep in my pelvis. I did not have back labor with either, even the OP babe. I have to say that I did not think they were that bad, I mean, intense, yes, requiring deep focus and coping, yes, but the worst pain I ever felt? No! It was very freeing to surrender to the contractions, doing whatever felt good, no matter how crazy or silly it seemed. From my two datapoints, I seem to take forever to labor/dilate to 3 cm, and then go from 3-10 really fast! Labors last about 36 hours each, in both labors, I immersed myself in the tub, completely, except for my nose, when I had the intense contractions, removing all the sensory stimulation, ears underwater, eyes closed, remaining really loose. Alternately, I did a lot of deep vocalization. As I said, hard, yes, intense, yes, all encompassing, yes, body wracking, yes, but incredibly painful — no. If I could, I would labor and birth once a year! No pregnancy, no baby to keep, just a big ole labor and birth! It was the hardest, most intense, but doable work I have ever done!

–Sharon

 

 

A Birth Story — Cara & Baby Vivian

On the night that I finally went into labor, I was 40 weeks and 6 days and had been having contractions about 10 minutes apart for about 36 hours. I also had three previous episodes of what I thought was the beginning of labor that later stopped. To say that I was ready to meet my baby is an understatement! Between 9 and 11 that evening, my contractions were uncomfortable and noticeable, but not very painful and never any closer than 8 minutes apart. Around 11 pm, however, things started to pick up, both in pain and frequency. I had to get into a variety of positions, breathe and vocalize through each one. After a handful of contractions like that, my husband and I thought it best to call our doula, our babysitters and our midwife. I had guessed that my contractions were about 5 minutes apart, but after watching me, my husband said they were more like 3 minutes. (I had no idea; by that point, I could not focus on a clock.) We agreed that it was definitely time to go to the hospital. Amazingly, I had the awareness (in between contractions) to pack my kids’ backpacks for school, email a friend to cancel a playdate scheduled for the next day, and grab a plastic bag and towel for the car ride — just in case.

The car ride to the hospital was an experience I’d rather not repeat in this lifetime. I knelt in the back seat, feeling every twist and turn and dealing with contractions by bracing myself against the seat back, breathing and moaning. When we arrived, we entered through the emergency room since it was after hours. I remember passing by a handful of people while wearing my nightgown, hugely pregnant and clearly in active labor. One woman congratulated me. Upon entering, I told the admitting nurse that I would not be riding in a wheel chair to labor and delivery — there was no way I could manage contractions while sitting in a chair! On the way to L&D, I had about 4 contractions. Each time, I would stop, close my eyes, drop to the ground, try and breathe (though it was getting tough), and vocalize.

When we entered the delivery room, it was dim, there was just one or two nurses and everyone was speaking to me very quietly and respectfully. My assigned nurse was someone who enjoyed assisting women birthing naturally (yay!) and was so accommodating to my state of labor. My doula arrived shortly after we got into the room. Per protocol, the nurse wanted to perform a vaginal exam (which I was ok with since I too wanted to know my progress) and get a few minutes of fetal monitoring. Because my contractions were coming hard and fast, we timed the exam in between a contraction so I could lay down and then quickly get back up to prepare for the next contraction. She checked me and revealed that I was 4-5cm. What?? I was sure that, based on the intensity of my contractions, I would be closer to 7 or 8cm. As soon as I stood back up after the exam and had another contraction, I heard a snapping sound and my water broke with intense force, all over the hospital floor. I clearly remember thinking, “Gross, what a mess!” While the nurse finagled with the fetal monitors around my belly to get a clear reading of the baby’s heart rate, I climbed onto the bed to try and better cope with the next contraction. I knelt on the bed and asked my doula and nurse to raise up the back of the bed so I could have something to brace myself against. During this time, my doula and nurse attempted to comfort me by providing counter pressure and rubbing my back — nothing felt good and I quickly asked them to stop. I was at the point in labor where I didn’t want anyone touching me! After a couple of contractions, I felt pressure and a slight burning. I told my nurse, “I think I’m ready to push!” The nurse, who had been monitoring the baby’s heart rate and was still entering my information into the computer, lifted up my skirt (I had changed into my Binsi labor skirt upon arriving) and saw that the baby’s head was in fact crowning!

At this point, the only people in the room were my husband, my doula and the charge nurse. My midwife was still on her way (she was coming down the hall, I later found out). When my nurse saw that baby was crowning, she quickly left the room and brought back a team of people, including my midwife. There was a flurry of activity and the atmosphere in the room was serious but energized. I was slightly aware of what was happening in the room, but mostly focused on what was happening with me. As the baby descended, I could tell that I needed to provide more room as it felt like she was hitting my pubic bone. Still kneeling, I lifted out my right leg (modified Captain Morgan pose, ha!) to open up my pelvis. As she started to further emerge, I instinctively reached down to support my perineum (and because it hurt!). What I felt was not what I expected to feel — a gooey, mushy, round protrusion. I guess I had expected it to feel more solid. After her head was out, the midwife reached in to unwrap the cord from around her neck — yeowch, that did not feel nice! Shortly after, with a few more pushes, she was fully out. The relief was immediate and amazing. Since I was facing away from the midwife, she handed the baby to me through my legs so I could hold her for the first time. As I reached to grab her, all I could think to do was to find out the gender — no one had yet said anything about the baby being boy or girl. When I saw that she was a girl, I announced it to the room and sat in complete shock! My husband and I both thought that we would be having our third boy. She was not yet crying and took a little while to make noise, but she soon started wriggling and worked out a cry. The midwife and staff were respectful of my wishes to hold her skin-to-skin and allow the cord to stop pulsing before clamping. When they finally did take her to perform some extra suctioning (the birth was so fast, she had a lot of extra fluid in her), the nurse asked about diapering and wrapping her and I declined — I wanted to see and hold all of her, not a little burrito blanket baby! Everyone in the room was SO accommodating to every last one of my requests, down to the littlest detail like bringing our own baby wash for her first bath; no one showed any attitude or made me feel like someone else was calling the shots. It was awesome.

To get an idea of just how fast this whole experience was — we were checking into the delivery room at 12:50 am and Vivian was born at 1:16 am. It wasn’t until we were moved to a recovery room that I had time to digest what had just happened. I was elated that I was able to have the low intervention and med-free experience that I so longed for, and I was so pleased with how I was treated by everyone in the hospital. At the same time, the way in which the birth scene played out was intense and at times, a little scary. I won’t lie — when I was upright and pushing, I was frightened at the warp speed timing of everything. It was like a freight train with no brakes — there was no stopping the process! Now that I’ve had a week to reflect on the experience, I am just so happy. Birth is definitely a mix of preparation and luck, and thankfully, I had both on my side.

 

Healthy Birth Around the World: Vancouver, Canada

It was 1978. I was pregnant and 25 years old. I was one of a group of health conscious young people creating a simple, natural lifestyle. We chose to birth at home. I had attended a few friends’ births and they were magnificent. At that time, in Canada, doctors were attending home births and midwifery was not legalized. Shortly after my son’s birth, doctors were prohibited from attending home births.

In early March 1979, a couple of weeks after my estimated due date, labor started. I had a friend visiting who would go on to study midwifery. She had to leave the next day, so that night I had a serious conversation with my unborn child saying that in no uncertain terms he/she had to come NOW. At that moment my waters burst with such force the futon I was sleeping on was soaked through. I was so excited, shouting to my friend who was sleeping soundly, “My water broke, my water broke!”

I called my sister at 1 a.m. to let her know what had just happened. In a sleepy voice she asked, “Are you having contractions?” I said no. Her response was, “Go back to bed and I’ll come over in the morning!”

My sister was a pro at this (I thought) having had two children, one in hospital, one at home, which I also had been at. We had practiced Lamaze breathing in preparation for my birth. I had done little else and had not read any birth books. I was sure that the breathing would aid me in staying relaxed. My sister was my doula. Also involved were 2 lay midwives and my kind elderly doctor (who would show up much later and drink tea downstairs).

During the night not much happened. I was too wired to sleep so walked the hall, tried the bath, but didn’t like it. Labor picked up by 7 a.m. My sister arrived with my 5 yr. old nephew. Later the midwives came to check in and stayed from that point on.

I didn’t want to move very much. I likened myself to an animal that seeks to labor undisturbed in one place. Mine was my bed. My sister sat behind supporting me. She had me do the different types of breathing we had practiced for each stage of labor. I found myself focused inward, deeply in touch with the waves that flowed over and in, out of me. I needed complete focused concentration as a wave was gathering strength through me, aware of my breath, in, out, in,

 out, until it subsided.

I know I must have gotten up to pee but I recall being on that bed, very still, with eyes closed, in an altered state until the birth! I was consumed, drawn into a timeless space, riding out the never ceasing ebb and flow of labor waves. Like surfing a tsunami! I rarely spoke or acknowledged those in the room, barely aware of the “outside.” At the times I did open my eyes, it was like seeing a snapshot – click – my nephew at the bottom of the bed staring at me, click – the midwives sitting quietly, click – my friend silently standing beside my bed.

After being fully dilated for some time my doctor appeared beside me and gently said to push as if I had a big bowel movement. I wasn’t feeling strong urges. There had been a moment where I wondered what was happening as I noted the midwives looking on with some concern in their eyes.

Once my doctor gave me this instruction I went ahead and did just that – mustered all my strength and pushed with everything I had. After 32 years, I still remember that sensation of my son slipping out of me. Before that was the burning searing ring of fire. In my mind the thought formed “I am ripping wide open” (I didn’t have any tears). I yelled out at the moment my son entered the world. He slid out wet and bloody onto the bed.

My parents had been called earlier when we thought that the birth was imminent, but as it took longer they arrived just at the moment of birth. They stepped into the room and were overcome by the sight! My Dad proceeded to thank my doctor avoiding looking at his naked daughter. My doc, gotta love him, said, “Don’t thank me, thank your daughter!” My mom sat down next to me and I squeezed her hand so tightly, all the while saying “I am so happy, I am so happy, look at him, look at him.” I was on a high. Giddy. I buzzed. I hummed!

I wanted to put him in a bath immediately after birth. He unfolded exactly the way I had seen it in Dr. Frederick Leboyer’s book. His hands uncurled, his body relaxed totally and he floated peacefully just loving it.

My doctor told me that his head had been asynclitic (turned to one side) and that was why I hadn’t felt strong urges to bear down. My son did have a very long “cone head.”

My birth experience was not one of pain. It was intense requiring my full attention. I felt it as powerful surges, all encompassing. I know my son’s birth inspired me to become a doula. I hoped that other women could enjoy their birth experience as I had.  As Sheila Kitzinger says it’s something we actively do and exalt in.

Post birth, my journal entry: The birth. Intense. Hard. Panic. Perseverance. Will. Strength. Tired. So total. Keep pushing. Keep going. You can’t stop even if you want to. There’s no place to run to, no escape. You have to use ALL of you. It seems like my whole life was brought together in 15 hours. I guess that’s what it’s all been for.

Debra Woods

Vancouver, Canada

Birth & Postpartum Doula, Childbirth Educator