It was the morning of Tuesday, August 11th and my husband Jason made me some scrambled eggs with castor oil to see if we could get things moving along. I prepared my hospital bag, used the breast pump for 30 minutes and we even had sex to try to get the birth process started. These were all instructions from my midwife at Modern Midwifery.
Shortly after, I began to feel cramping about 10 minutes apart, but I wasn’t sure if it was early labor or it would fizzle out. I headed to my chiropractor appointment at Uprise for a last-minute adjustment before going to check-in with my midwives at Modern Midwifery for my regular appointment. While I was there, they had me go into the early labor room, where they found I was 3 cm dilated. Meghan did a membrane sweep which helped me get to 4cm. Jason and I stayed in the early labor room for a couple of hours to see how far I would progress. It was such a peaceful, relaxing experience. They set up an aromatherapy diffuser, provided herbal supplements, allowed me to pump my breasts, use birth balls, and utilize my birth affirmations. I breathed through the surges. I used an app called Freya, a hypno-birthing surge timer and birth partner, and listened to their scripts on repeat during this time.
Jason sat in front of me while I was on the birthing ball throughout all of this. He was quiet and attentive, giving me water and whatever else I needed. A wonderful birth partners! Meghan had me walk the hallways and stairs and told Jason to not let me stop during the contractions – to always keep moving.
At this point, we knew I was in labor. I was timing the surges with the Freya app and they were fairly consistent, coming every 2-3 minutes and lasting about 40-50 seconds. It took a lot of my concentration, but they were not what I expected in terms of pain. Someone asked me what the pain was like, and I didn’t know how to reply because I wasn’t even sure I was in pain!
We continued shuffling up and down the stairs while I focused on the walls, trailing my fingers across the textured wallpaper, feeling the ridges and waves and directing all of my focus onto that. That way, focusing on something could override whatever pain signals my uterus was trying to send to my brain. All I cared about was that wallpaper, the wavy textured lines, and the way it felt under my fingertips. I had read about these distraction techniques and how intense concentration on objects, textures or percussion, or constant movement of the legs can override pain signals.
Once I was back in the early labor room, my doula Shelly was on her way, I was at 8cm dilated and I don’t recall what time it was. It was time to get checked in. I was shown to the room where we would give birth to our baby. Things continued to progress. I had expected to feel pain, like I was being stabbed in the stomach, or I was dying. Instead, it felt like very intense pressure on my bladder, as if I needed to pee. I had read something that reminded me that I should focus on other parts of my body that were not in pain and recognize that there was still a good bit of me that was still perfectly fine. The pain was centered in my uterus, but the rest of me was not in pain and was functioning normally. This, along with other very logical and practical considerations, helped me to keep perspective and control.
At 4:00 pm, my birth tub was ready, and I really wanted the benefits of hydrotherapy. Getting into that water was amazing! I loved it. It didn’t take away the pain, but it was so very comforting.
The surges continued as I labored in the tub. I remember feeling the “ring of fire” they tell you about, but it only lasted a moment before it was gone. As I was in the pushing stage, Meghan asked me to give a little push, and then a big push. The big push was crazy, and I pushed with everything I had and the next thing I knew…they told me to reach down and there was Sabrina in my arms and on my chest crying. I remember saying, “Oh my God” because up until this point I hadn’t really stopped to consider that I would be holding a baby at the end of this…another human being separate from me. But here she was, on my chest, a wet and beautiful thing crying. Everything stopped in that moment. I didn’t feel any pain or discomfort from the birth, I only felt elation and giddiness and awe.
She had been born in her sac in the water and it had ruptured on its own. Meghan had to peel it away from her like a veil to bring her up to me. Jason took pictures of it pooled around her feet, it looked just like sheer silk. We sat in the water for a few minutes just relishing in each other’s presence.
I have thought often about my birth story and how easily everything came together. I looked for a Certified Nurse Midwife in a hospital setting specifically for the option to have an epidural if needed. I seriously doubted my ability to use hypnobirthing techniques—it seemed too simplistic, and I wasn’t a granola type of person, so surely, I wouldn’t know how to use the techniques correctly. To be honest, I was apprehensive about labor up until the morning I ate those castor oil scrambled eggs. I just wanted Sabrina to stay in my belly so I wouldn’t have to deal with what could be a traumatic experience. But once things started moving, I found I was able to take baby steps and it wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be.
I really credit my experience not only to the three books I read during my pregnancy, but also the documentary The Business of Being Born, which I first watched in 2008, and formed the foundation of my understanding of prenatal care. Until I saw that documentary, I didn’t know I had other options. I didn’t know midwives existed, and I certainly did not know that most OBs had never witnessed a traditional, unmedicated birth. After watching it, I knew I wanted to attempt a water birth and to have a midwife for my prenatal care. I think having that knowledge and certainty for twelve years normalized what would otherwise have been considered an “out there” birth plan for a lot of women in the U.S. and contributed to the mindset that I had for my labor and birth.