Birth stories are something we simply can’t get enough of. We often visit you during the postpartum period and although we may have been at your birth, it’s so intriguing to hear your take on it. One of our recent clients shares her birth story below and we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did.
Danielle is the Co-Owner of Stride Media Group and now a Mom of a beautiful baby boy, here is her story.
The calm before the storm
We were sitting at a table in a fancy steakhouse that we knew we could never afford without the gift certificate. A year before, someone gave us the gift card for as a wedding gift, and we were finally getting around to using it to celebrate our one-year anniversary.
While we were polishing off dessert, I began to have cramps, and dismissed them as another round of Braxton Hicks contractions.
Walking the aisles of Target, the tightening became worse, and I told Ryan that I was sure I was having actual contractions. Each time one hit, it lasted for a about one minute and I had to pause so I could concentrate to inhale and exhale slowly like I’d practiced. When the sensation passed, I was able to breathe and speak normally so we continued to joke around as we shopped the electronic section for wireless headphones (the last item I needed to cross of my “hospital bag list” so I could listen to soothing music during labor).
After a few contractions, Ryan began to time the contractions and noticed they were coming every 13 minutes like clockwork. We grew excited knowing that this meant that it was almost time.
Rest before the real action begins
When we returned to our apartment, I encouraged Ryan to sleep because there was nothing he could do to help me with the contractions. If this was actually the beginning of labor, l’d need him to be wide awake and alert to help me through it. So he slept on the couch while I rested in the bedroom. Beginning at 1am, the contractions increased to ten minutes apart and intensified. I was exhausted and began to doze off between each one, waking only to hold myself up on my dresser as I breathed in for 6 seconds, out for 8 seconds—just like I’d practiced with my tapes. I even had to choose a focal point in the bedroom and concentrate, using a mental strength I hadn’t exercised since taking the SATs.
By 8am, I wanted to cry with each contraction but I refused. I kept telling myself, “The real pain probably hasn’t even started yet…”. Ryan woke up and suggested we walk the dog around the block to distract myself and speed up labor. So we walked and I noticed that suddenly the contractions were five minutes apart. Ryan looked at me with excitement and anticipation and said, “I think we should go to the hospital…” And I told him, “Yeah. Let’s do it.” He rushed around the apartment like a madman, packing our hospital bag and making sure we had everything I needed: my lavender essential oils for calming, string lights for ambience, my “going home” outfit, and toiletries.
It’s go time, call the doula!
We called the doula as soon as we got into the car. We told her that we were headed to the hospital just to make sure everything was okay, but we were totally prepared for them to send us back home. Maybe these weren’t strong enough, consistent enough. Maybe we were being overeager first-timers. Our Doula, Mandy, told us lovingly, “Okay, well, if you two feel the need to head to the hospital then go ahead, But I’m telling you, girl, the way you are able to speak to me so easily right now makes me think that maybe… you aren’t there yet. So if you get to the hospital and they say you’re not too far along, then consider heading back home to labor in a space where you’re comfortable and try the hospital again in a few hours. Call me when you’re admitted and I’ll meet you there.”
The hospital was only ten minutes away, so we decided to follow through. When we checked in, I made sure to let them know I preferred to labor at home but just wanted to get checked to see that everything was alright. They agreed.
Checking into the hospital
Once I was draped in a gown and laid on the table, a nurse came in to check my cervix. As she began, she asked me, “What’s your pain level on a scale of 1-10?” I considered all the movies I’d seen with women screaming and sweating and compared those scenes with my current situation. “Well, I guess it’s going to get much worse, so probably like, a 3 or 4?” The contractions themselves hurt so badly, but they lasted for only a minute and then I felt no pain until the next one hit.
She felt around for something inside of me and spoke, bewildered, “Okay, I want to tell you something but I… I’m gonna get another nurse to check you and confirm what I think is going on.” I tried not panic as she left the room. She returned a few minutes later with another nurse who checked my cervix, withdrew her fingers, and with surprise told us, “Honey, you’re 8 centimeters dilated.”
Is this really it?
I was shocked. Shouldn’t I be sweating and seizing? Isn’t this the part where, in a state of anxiety and pain, I curse my husband for being alive shouting, “How could you do this to meeeeee?”
Ryan ran outside to begin calling our parents and notifying the doula to “get here, like right now”.
I was thrilled to know that I was so far along, but then I began to cry, realizing that this meant the real pain was not far behind. The nurse asked me if I wanted the epidural, and I was tempted, but I had been preparing for a natural birth, so I fought the temptation and told her, “No, thank you… well, not yet.”
Wanting to give myself an out in case I needed it later.
This just got real…..
There were two more hours of contractions… and then things got real.
The contractions began to twist my insides pushing down on everything inside of me. And since they occurred like waves, I was able to announce to Ryan, “Here comes one…” and he held my hand intensely as I groaned. He and Mandy held me each time my body convulsed from the pain and soothed me as I awaited the next one. Ryan did the work to sustain me: He fed me ice chips and put cool cloths on my forehead, he fed me popsicles and let me squeeze his hand.
My doula stroked my back and whispered in my ear, “You are so brave. You are so strong. You are so brave. You are so strong…” activating the affirmations I’d practiced every day for months. It calmed me. Made me believe I could do this—I remembered that my body was literally made to bring my baby to my arms.
In the last hour, I breathed nitrous oxide during every contraction and felt the need to push. Surprisingly my water had not yet broken, and I wanted it to break naturally. But eventually the doctor (who was not the doctor I’d been seeing for 8 months—she was on vacation) encouraged me to allow her to break my water. I got on all fours (I heard that birthing this way was easier) and let her break my water, and I cried. I whispered to Mandy, “I’m trying to be brave.” And she told me, “Girl you ARE. You’re killing it.”
I pushed for about twenty minutes, with everyone’s encouragement motivating me to literally push past the pain: “I can see his hair! Keep going, you’re doing so good! Keep going Danielle, you’re almost there!” My mom narrated my progress and visualizing Elijah making his way out encouraged me to keep going. Crying and I felt like I was slipping from consciousness, I had been positive and focused up until that point, but I started whimpering:, “I can’t do this anymore, I can’t…”. Ryan grabbed my face and stared at me with tears in his eyes: “Look at me! Look at me! You can do this! I’m right here! You’re about to bring our baby here. Push!” Like a scene from a movie, I looked into his face and, overcome with love, gave one last push and heard my baby’s cries.
I didn’t get to use my oils or my strong lights.
Never opened those headphones we bought at Target.
I never used the birthing pool we insisted on having in our room.
Certainly didn’t take the time to “touch up” for pictures afterwards.
And it was perfect. It was a euphoric and empowering and existential. I prayed aloud the entire time asking Jesus to bring my baby to me safely and to help me be strong. And he did.
I’ve read other women’s birth stories and wondered. What would mine be like? Would things go smoothly? How bad would the pain be? Could I birth naturally if I put my mind to it and there were no complications and I put my mind to it? Would Ryan be able to support me? Would it be too much t have my mom, my doula, and my husband in the room? WOULD I NEED STITCHES?
Everything went well, nothing according to plan.
And it is my hope that this is not only true of my birth experience, but my experience of every day hereafter.
One Love Doula Services