Each week we share stories of birth from around the world - medicated, unmedicated; vaginal, cesarean; long, short. All birth. All beautiful.
Alana is a birth and postpartum doula and lives in Maryland.
On February 6th I woke up at 4:30am with cramping sensations. I tried to continue to rest, but the discomfort was too much to hold still. I proceeded to go through 4-5 hours of being in total denial that I was in active labor. During some of the early hours I took baths, walked circles around my house, and bounced on my birth ball. Then I thought , "Well, if this is real labor I better pack the birth and baby bags!" At the time, I felt stupid for not doing these simple tasks before, but looking back I think it distracted me in a good way. It gave me a task I had to concentrate on besides concentrating on my cervix opening. My due date was not until Feb 12th and I was expecting it to be warm up pre-labor, not active labor. Since I wasn't due for another week, my man and I had just moved into a new house so I was hoping to get at least a week or two more of nesting time in our new place. Also, with all the doula/midwifery/birthworker knowledge crowding my thoughts and head 24/7, I reminded myself that most first time mamas have pre-labor that can stop and go for days, even weeks, and more than often have their babies after their EDD (estimated due date). So at 4:30 am I thought to myself "maybe this is practice labor", "these cramps will probably stop soon". I spent the rest of the 4-5 hours walking, getting in the bath, walking up and down stairs, and deep breathing.... all the time thinking that things would stop. I finally stopped being stubborn after timing my contractions and writing them in my preganacy notebook, feeling silly and realizing I had written a list of over 2 pages of contraction times that were 3-5 minutes apart. Plus it was getting harder to time them and then write the times down in between the rushes.
After mentally accepting that things were really happening, my contractions picked up. They only felt uncomfortable, never painful, and by moving, breathing, and making noise I was able to get though each one just fine. As I had expected I also got sick to my stomach alot, even keeping down fluids was difficult for me. But again, with my birth worker knowledge, I knew to stay calm as my body was purging itself of everything in order to give itself entirely to the process of birthing my baby. My partner and I headed to the birth center around 1 pm.
That was the car ride from hell!! The car ride interrupted my focus and coping techniques and worst of all ~ I couldnt move! The ride took about 40 minutes. Being stuck in Baltimore stop and go traffic, while in labor with rushes coming an average of 5 min apart, and fighting back the worst nausea while sporadically throwing up in a bag is no joke. I was so happy to get to the BC! I waddled into the birth center's private enterance that only the laboring mamas, daddies, and their family/support teams use. When I walked in immediately I could tell there was another mama laboring in one of the other rooms. A nurse came up to see who I was (I think she thought I had gotten the wrong entrace for a prenatal appt!) All I remember saying was cut and short, "Hi. I'm Alana. Im here to have my baby."
Once settled in my birthing room with my man, they gave me an IV (a standard MD practice when GBS positive), plus I could feel that I was very dehydrated from getting sick to my stomach so much. I was thankful for the IV and it made me feel calmer, more like my normal self, and gave me some subtle energy. When the midwife checked me I was surprised to be at 5 cm already! Thank the birthing Goddess!! Because there was another mama already there having her baby, the midwives left me and my man to ourselves so I could labor in private before the birth. I remember vomiting alot at the birth center, which again I was expecting because my entire pregnancy I suffered from morning/day sickness.....every single day, yes 40 weeks of throwing up everyday!
At 5:30 pm, after using the water birth tub for relaxation and to handle the waves of rushes as best i could, I asked to be checked again. I was 6.5 cm dialted. Upon hearing this I thought I would have many hours left to labor, and to be honest was a bit disapointed that I had only progressed 1.5 cm since the early afternoon. I continued to labor in the birth tub. So all the midwives left to go attend to the other mama in labor thinking her baby was coming soon.
About 45 min later, all of a sudden I wasnt getting a break between contractions and I started uncontrolably pushing. You can not stop pushing when your baby is moving down on its own so fast! I looked at my partner in panic and told him to get the midwives~ I was scared that I was pushing to early because only 45 min before I had been at 6.5 cm.
In retrospect and using my birthing education, if I had been in my right mind I would have known the time was close. I believe this becasue those last 5 minutes of contractions with no breaks, I remember thinking about the fact of perhaps NOT do this without intervention. I thought if contractions go on like this I want to be transfered and an epidural! Now, I know from my birthing experiences as an assistant midwife and birth doula, typically when a mama voices this fear after being so set to have a natural birth, its a signal that she is almost, if not fully dialted. That is usually the hardest it will get, the moment a mama wants out of the natural birth plan that she was set on for so long, becasue her body has fully transitioned, and her mind cant directly comprehend it or keep up. Some of my favorite labor/birth mantras is "Let your mind go. Just let your monkey do it. Surrender to the process."
The midwives came back and I was fully dilated!!!! Yay! That was such a surreal moment being told, "ok you can push your baby out now, dialting is done." My man started scrambling around to get his clothes off and get his swim shorts on to get in the tub, as our plan was to have him catch our baby. For me pushing was very easy! I remember it felt rather gratifying to finally be able to put energy back into the energetic rushes that I had been surrendering to for hrs. The first push, which really was kind of a half-effort push since that sensation was all new to me, broke my bag of waters. Since I was in the tub it was a very subtle feeling. Clear amniotic fluid...yay! I think I pushed then with 2 back to back contractions before his head started crowning. My baby was coming and moving down, fast! The midwives told me and my partner to reach down and feel our baby's head which was a great moment, realizing how fast it was all happening and that our baby was almost here. I remember feeling the head first and being in disbelief that the head was really that close. I kind of giggled, and said, "Wow". My partner felt the head then too and when I saw the look of raw excitement and joy on his face it made me feel good and happy and strong.
Just as my partner was about to get in the birth tub to help me birth our baby and catch it, the midwives became concerned with the baby's heart rate which was dropping during each push. With my baby's head crowing, the midwives told me to get out of the tub, which at the moment was utterly impossible to think about! I looked at them like, "Whatever, Im staying right here!" So they pulled my arms and my partner demanded that I get out of the tub. At that moment, hearing his voice so concerned, I realized the intensity of everything and did as he and the midwives said, and got out of the tub. I remember being so rushed then. After climbing out of the tub, I needed, absolutely required myself to get to that bed across the room before the next contraction came. I guess the contractions were so heavy and intense at that point that I felt as though I would be knocked to the ground by the contractions if I didn't have something to lean on or the bed. I rushed, or rather waddled across the room,half way being carried at my arms by my man, and the three midwives. Just as I made it to the bed, I felt the next wave starting and I bent over on the bed on all fours. There was so much pressure and my uterus was contracting so fast and strong, it felt like I was on a train going fast and faster and faster and my only choice was to go only where it took me.....and SURRENDER! I pushed through the pressure, which felt good to finally put some energy into the contraction, and at the same time I felt the 'ring of fire' for the first time. I know as a birth worker that the ring of fire is sometimes the hardest moment for mamas. But it all happened so fast! I think I had 1 contraction on the bed and pushed into it twice, feeling the burning, and then, pop! A head! Oh my god," i thought! "I cant believe it!" Right away I pushed again and felt more burning, baby's shoulders, and then my warm, slippery, long, baby coming through and out of me, crying and moving. I was crying and moving too, trying to see my baby. So was my man, who had unforunatley not been able to get behind me and around the three attending midwives in time to catch our baby. Finally our baby was here, with all three of us crying and moving and transitioning into something bigger than we had ever been before ~ baby, life, eternal connection, parenthood, LOVE!
As I was still kneeling on all fours on the bed, the midwives passed my baby between my knees on the bed and I picked my crying baby up! Quickly and out of elation, I looked down between my baby's legs and saw a penis, with which I cried with joy, "Its a boy!" before my man even had a chance to look for himself or with me. Oops!
Me and my son's daddy spent the next 3 hours alone, falling in love with our baby for the first time. These moments were so beautiful, the three of us, a new family, embracing each other, skin to skin for the entire time. And I will never forget those moments. Besides a few moments with the midwives, who helped me birth my placenta 10 minutes after my son was born, and 6 stitches I had to get to repair a few tears, we enjoyed these moments being together in awe with little interruptions, amazed and in wonder, and love. We looked him from head to toes, named him, and felt so proud to bring this new being into this universe. The only true vistor we had to the birth center was my partner's mother, aka Nani to our baby, who came to support us during part of my labor and after the birth.
After that I took a shower and eventually we headed home. The birth center that I gave birth at requires all mamas to pee and be able to shower on their own before they will discharge a mama. The maximum amount of time at this birth center that families can stay following the birth is 9 hrs. Less than 5 hours after giving birth we were at home, snow falling outside softly in the moon light, and settled and snuggling as a family. I looked at my beautiful baby boy sleeping and his daddy who I loved more than ever now, and my heart was whole and I felt the deepest love and happiness I have ever experienced. I have my own family now. I am a mommy finally. I am a strong women. I gave birth naturally and loved it. I am a parent with the man I love. I am an empowered mama.