I titled this post with “Once Upon a Time” because my birthing story is nothing short of a fairy tale. It was an experience I wish all women could experience at least once in their lifetime and one that I feel should be shared loudly above all of the typical horror stories most people want to share with you while pregnant.
It seems like from the minute you find out you are pregnant there are so many options and decisions to make. And if you don’t really explore those options and educate yourself it is easy to get pulled into the “main stream” ways of doctors, epidurals and c-sections. I thought I was being very “holistic” with my first daughter when I chose a group of midwives over a doctor to help me deliver Kailey. I knew they would take a more natural approach and would not push unnecessary drugs on me. As a first time mom and not knowing what to expect I chose to deliver in a hospital “just in case” I needed any emergency medical attention. My overall experience was a good one. I did choose to get an epidural after my old back injury had kept my body from relaxing enough to let my baby through after trying every other available method.
Because I knew from my previous experience that my back was a problem, when I found out I was pregnant again I looked into water births. I felt like if I could keep my back relaxed I might be able to have a natural labor the second time around. I found Best Start Birth Center in San Diego and was happy to see that I had recognized many of the midwives from the group that helped me with my first pregnancy. My whole experience there for my prenatal care was great. The midwives are so compassionate and really treat you like a friend with care and love.
In addition to my prenatal care I also spent a lot of time reading “Spiritual Midwifery” by Ina May. I really felt a very strong connection to this book and the beautiful stories within it. I loved how beautiful labor was portrayed through these women telling their stories and how peaceful they sounded. The orgasmic stories were so different than the typical birthing stories you normally hear and I wanted so badly to put myself their mentally to have the same type of experience. But sometimes as I would read and think back to my previous birth story and how painful the contractions were I would ask myself, “Is this book too “hippie” for me? Would I really be able to have this kind of enjoyable labor experience?” A few phrases of the book really stuck in my mind and I knew they would be terrific tools to help me when coping in labor. The first being that Ina May chose to call contractions “rushes” because that’s what they actually are “rushes of downward energy that require 100% of your attention.” I love this! I loved how the women spoke of “riding the rushes” and in some cases would even get high with their spouses off the energy that the rushes would bring. A good friend of mine, whom is also a doula, said to me to just breathe through the rushes as if riding a wave in the ocean and know that the climax is only abut a minute and then you get to rest. “You can do ANYTHING for only one minute.” She also shared a birthing chant with me that says “My body is a piece of hollow bamboo, open up and let my baby through.” It sounded silly to me at the time but became very useful for me during labor because it has such a strong visual effect for me. So with all of these tools I had mentally prepared myself for a calm and peaceful labor.
On August 26th I woke up with period-like symptoms and thought to myself, “I don’t think she’s coming today but this is definitely the beginning.” Throughout the morning the dull aching cramp pain turned into light contractions. I started timing them at 6-7 minutes apart. I decided to go along with my plans of taking Kailey to ride her bike and go to the beach. I figured walking would be good, followed by a day of sitting outside enjoying the gorgeous weather. I had decided then I was not going to tell anyone I was having contractions because I didn’t want anyone to add any anxious energy to me. My two best friends joined me during the day and my contractions were getting stronger. I did end up telling them and we even made a game out of timing the contractions. Towards the end of the day I called my husband and told him to meet us for dinner. He came and we joined some friends for a nice Mexican dinner. My contractions were getting strong enough to where I would mentally leave dinner conversation to go within and breathe. I figured it was good practice for what was to come.
Later that night I woke up to my contractions stronger and closer together than earlier that day. I thought “OK it’s time.” And it wasn’t until that moment that I made the conscious decision that I wanted to labor by myself until the very last minute. I felt like if I told my husband or mom that I was in labor they would make me go to the birthing center sooner than I wanted to and would add anxious energy to the process. I was so happy that it was the middle of the night and that I could labor in my bed in complete darkness. I turned on some meditation music and got comfy in my bed with pillows all around me. I would breathe through my contractions and would gently drift off to sleep in between. I found it very helpful to repeat the birthing chant to myself with my breaths and would visualize my body opening up and baby moving downward. I concentrated so much on transferring the pain into helpful energy opening my body to help bring my baby into the world instead of fighting it. It was great! Before I knew it it was 3am, I thought “OK I want to try and last in my bed until 5am so that I am not so tired getting up in the middle of the night.” At 5am I thought “well, I’ve lasted this long, I m going to try and make it until 7am so that I can say good morning to Kailey and let her know what is going on.” Soon enough it was 7am, I had lasted the whole night laboring alone in the peaceful darkness of my room. My contractions were stronger than ever and about 4-5 mins apart. I awoke my husband and told him that if he wanted to shower it was about time to go. I went downstairs and told my mom the same thing. She jumped up and started exclaiming “What?! Now?! Really?! What can I do for you?!” I simply said, “Mom, the biggest thing you can do for me right now is to stay calm. I have been laboring all night in the most peaceful state of mind and I really want to maintain that.” She understood and went to take a shower to leave me be. Kailey woke up and I made her french toast for breakfast and spent time loving on her and letting her know that I was going to leave her with her Mamma (Grandma) and would be bringing her baby sister home to her soon. She had been such a big part of the pregnancy that at 3 ½ years old, she really understood. She looked at me with such excitement behind her eyes and said “I didn’t even know she was coming today!”
We arrived to the birthing center at about 10am. The midwife there that day was Ashley. I had a really great connection with Ashley and was glad to know she would be the one delivering my baby. She was busy upstairs delivering another baby when we got there so the midwife assistant/nurse Amy came in to help us get our room, fill the bathtub and take my vitals. I decided to get in the bath right away and was so relieved that I did. The minute I submersed myself in the water all of my pain disappeared. It was amazing! I had thought the water would help in the way that a jacuzzi simply feels good but I had no idea that the warm water would actually eliminate my pain all together. When I would have a contraction it was about 10% of what it was out of the water and was very manageable to breathe through. In between my contractions I was in a complete stage of euphoria. I felt my body flying and tingling with great energy. I was in a state of complete bliss and felt like I could both get up and dance or fall peacefully to sleep. It was great! The sound of my reggae music in the background was even more helpful in setting the mood. Very soon thereafter I felt the urge to push. Right then Ashley walked in after delivering the baby upstairs. I told her I needed to push so she decided to finally check me. The baby’s head was ready to deliver so she told me to just keep doing what I was doing. It was a wonderful experience to have a labor coach allow you to listen to your own body and trust your instincts rather than try and take over. Within minutes the baby’s head was out. I felt a burning sensation more intense than I had ever felt but Ashley and the two nurses, Amy and Jessica, helped me to focus and breathe through it. Ashley coached and guided Julio to catch the baby and soon enough she was out and he handed her to me right away. I shook with adrenaline and cried the happiest of tears. There was nothing more powerful than feeling the whole process of birthing my own baby and getting to hold her in my arms as a reward to finalize the whole experience.
Little Lani Isabela was born at 12:42pm on August 27, 2011 and was perfectly healthy and absolutely beautiful. The next few hours at the birthing center were so amazing and were what really set the standards apart from what I had previously had in the hospital with my first birth. The midwife and the nurses helped me from the bathtub to the bed without ever taking my baby from me. They allowed two full hours of bonding time between my husband, the baby and I, with minimal disturbances. They were so sweet and gentle to Lani when they did take her to measure and weigh her. It was such a loving, holistic experience and I cannot say enough about the quality of care we received.
Six hours later we were home and Lani got to meet her big sister and the rest of the family. It was so nice to be home and get the chance to love on our little baby the way we wanted to in the comfort of our own home. Everyone was so thrilled to meet the new addition and so shocked to know that I had left only a few hours earlier to have her and was now home with a new bundle of joy in our arms.
Thank you Best Start and all the midwives that made this entire life-changing experience so wonderful. It was your care and compassion that made our experience so beautiful and I would recommend it to every woman in the world to experience this at least once in their lifetime. Little Lani is the happiest baby and I can’t help but to think it was the way she was brought into this world with so much love and ease that has so much to do with it. We are so completely in love!