I discovered a passion for childbirth while I was pregnant with my first son. In college an anthropology professor mentioned that, after observing numerous births, she would only deliver her children with a midwife. I remembered this when I found out I was pregnant and I knew that I needed to do some research to see what my options were. I was fortunate to find a midwife who worked in a hospital in my area and Bradley Method classes nearby. I felt super empowered by the research I had done, classes I had taken and the care I received. The birth of my son was an amazing experience and I was able to have my son without the use of medication.
It is through this experience that I developed a desire to help women make informed decisions about childbirth, whatever their choices may be. I began my training to become a doula in the summer of 2007 and was certified through DONA in 2009. Just a few months later my second son was born, also un-medicated and without intervention. In 2010 I was certified as a HypnoBabies HypnoDoula (HCHD) and as a HypnoBirthing Labor Companion in 2014.
I am a sucker for birth stories, and so I wanted to share mine with you.
My First Son
My mom was early with my sister, brother and I, so I expected that I would also be early. As I got closer and closer to my due date I started to feel like a failure. Irrational, of course, but true! It was the day after my due date when I woke up having contractions. It was about 6 am, and I knew that it could be false labor, so I started my daily routine. I went to the gym and then to work. By 10:30 the contractions were still coming regularly, although they were not strong enough to command my attention. I had some chores to do around the house and I wanted to straighten my hair so it wasn't wild in the pictures afterward so I went home.
The contractions were slowly building in frequency and strength, so when my husband called from work around 2:30 I told him that he might want to think about coming home. By 5:00 pm things were starting to pick up and I was having to concentrate during the contractions. They were about 5 minutes apart and lasting a minute or so at this time. We called the midwife to let her know our status, but decided to stay home a little longer.
Around 7:00 pm I was getting a little eager to see how far along I was. Things were starting to get pretty tough and I felt like I needed to know where I was in the process so I could asses. The thought of sitting down in the car was unbearable to me because I felt so much better in motion. Since the hospital was only a few blocks away we decided to walk.
I was between 6-7 cm when we arrived at the hospital. I showered, I labored on the birthing ball, I walked, and I laid down during the next couple of hours. At my next exam I was 9+ cm. The midwife suggested if she break my bag of waters that she thought I would be able to push within a couple of minutes. I was tired and consented, although I wished later that I hadn't.
The pushing stage was quiet and peaceful. I was on hands and knees on the bed, with the feet lowered. No one shouting for me to push, only gentle encouragement and praise from my husband and midwife. I pushed instinctually and my son was born at 10:57 pm and weighed 8 lbs, 6 oz.
My Second Son
A lot had changed for me since my first child was born. We were living in a different state and, having become a doula, I had experienced several births, and I had taken a childbirth instructor's course to teach the Bradley Method. I had a lot more knowledge and experience under my belt, which was to my advantage, but it also made me more aware of possible challenges.
I liked my doctor and he was very supportive of natural childbirth, but I loved the midwife that I had used in Texas. I had researched my options and preferred doing a home birth, but my husband wasn't 100% behind it and it would cost us more because of the way insurance treats it. All this to say, I don't think I was coming in to this birth with as much confidence in my decision.
It's a pretty well-known fact that labor is not predictable and just because you were early, on time, or late with previous births, doesn't mean you will follow the same pattern with later births. So when my doctor kept telling me he was sure I was going to be early, I should have taken it with a grain of salt. My due date came and went and I was still pregnant. He had me come in for a sonogram and non-stress test just about every other day.
Finally, on the fifth-day past my due date I woke up in the morning with contractions, much like my first birth. I showered and got ready for my 7:45 am doctor's appointment and the contractions lasted throughout the morning. The doctor was pretty convinced I was not in labor, but my instincts told me that I was.
We decided to go walking to see if things might pick up. The hospital was downtown and I had planned to walk around the lake at Echo Park but it was during one of those horrific Southern California fire-storms, so we decided an indoor venue would be better. We walked around the Glendale Galleria for several hours and had lunch.
Things were slowly picking up and I felt like I needed to have a private space. My oldest was at home with my mom and I didn't want to labor in front of them. I knew I wasn't ready, but we decided to go to the hospital. When I checked in I told the nurse that I didn't think I was ready to be there. She brought us to a room, monitored me and brought me some juice. She checked in over the next few hours to see if we were okay, but didn't do an exam or monitor me further. During that time we played cards and chatted as the contractions started to become more intense.
Around 5:00 pm my doctor came in and did a vaginal exam. I was only 4 cm. I was so discouraged. I thought maybe we should leave and come back later, but he suggested we stay. He offered to break my water, which was tempting, but I had regretted it before and I didn't want to look back with regret, so I declined. He left and things got really intense.
I was walking around a bit and just trying to breathe and relax through the contractions. I was really starting to question my ability to do it naturally, especially knowing I was only 4 cm. I spent a good amount of time in the shower convincing myself to keep going and that's where I was when the doctor came back at 6:30 to check on me. He wanted to know whether he should stay at the hospital or go home to have dinner with his family.
The doctor did an exam and said "Okay, silly, you can start pushing with the next contraction." What? Very much unlike my first birth, there was rushing and shouting and everything was happening so fast! I tried a few positions, but ended up on my back. My son was born at 6:55 pm and weighed 8 lbs, 5 oz.
I want to make a note about this birth because I had given a lot of thought to the pushing stage. I had realized during my experiences as a doula that pushing is usually not the quiet, gentle version I had experienced with my first and I wanted to protect that peacefulness. Unfortunately, I hadn't communicated to my husband how important this was to me and was keenly aware that it wasn't what I wanted while it was happening, but I just couldn't advocate for myself. Moments like this have helped give me an insight into the needs of my clients and that sometimes, especially during intense moments, anticipation of a mom's needs can be critically helpful!
The last half of this pregnancy was very stressful for me. I had been planning for a home birth until I had an ultrasound at 20 weeks. The doctor was not able to see all of her heart and so he sent me to a pediatric cardiologist, who was able to confirm that the heart was working well, but could not see all of it. Over the next 22 weeks we received numerous ultrasounds and were given a handful of theories about what could be wrong with our daughter. No one knew what exactly was wrong, but they could see her heart was twisted to the side. She was growing and developing completely normally, otherwise, but this changed my plans to have a home birth as she may have needed immediate medical intervention after her birth. Knowing there was some mysterious health issue with my daughter, but not knowing what it is exactly or how she would respond when she was born weighed heavily on me. As a mom of 2 other children, I couldn’t live in these emotions, and so I processed when I could and had lots of highs and lows. My general sense was that she would be okay, but that it might be a rocky road to get to that point.
Toward the end of the pregnancy I shut off emotionally. In hindsight it was not the best way to deal with things, but survival was my goal. I just wanted her to be born so we knew what we were dealing with. December was hard. Lots of doctors appointments, colds, and not much sleep in addition to the extra holiday activities. I felt sapped of all reserve emotion and energy. As her due date approached we were all on stand by. We thought for sure she was coming the week before Christmas – after all my oldest was 1 day late and my middle 5. I hardly felt I had the strength to make it that far. As Christmas Eve and then Christmas rolled around my anticipation turned to anger. Frankly, I was mad that she was still inside and we had no baby and no resolution to question that lurked over our heads. As the days passed, I started to become nervous. All of a sudden I was looking at an induction date and having to decide how I wanted to approach this process. I sought advice from friends, other doulas, and midwives about what methods to try, but I didn’t want to spend the second week post-date obsessing about it.
The doctor wanted to induce Sunday (14 days past my EDD) if I didn’t have the baby, and wanted me to come in Friday (12 days past my EDD) for a non-stress-test. I decided I would have her strip my membranes on Friday if there was no labor and then start castor oil if that didn’t work. But I also started to recognize how my several weeks of avoiding the subject (mentally) might be coming back to get me. Fortunately I had a tool. I had been doing the HypnoBabies home-study course for natural childbirth and there is a track called “Fear Clearing.” I was reluctant to listen to this track during the end of my pregnancy as part of my plan to not “go there.” Realizing how I had sabotaged myself, I began to chip away as this defense I had created. For me it wasn’t about the birth – I had chosen the best doctor I could find to support me through this process and I trust my body knows what to do. It was what happened after her birth that I was worried over.
So, my plan was to send the boys to their grandparents the next two nights and focus on operation Baby Come Out! The game plan: continue listening to fear clearing, caulophyllum (homeopathically), strip membrane on day 12, acupressure starting on the evening of the 12th day, and castor oil on day 13.
Thursday I went to bed at 10:30 pm and woke up around 1:00 am feeling crampy. Went to the bathroom and had bloody show. I went back to sleep again and woke up at 1:45 again, crampy. I tried going back to sleep listening to some of the HypnoBabies tracks, but could not sleep through the contractions. I had a hard time getting into the hypnosis, so I just stayed in the active mode (center) and listened to the CD’s as I putsed around the house – showered, straightened hair, cleaned out the fridge, made chicken salad, etc. The contractions were intense, but not super regular, averaging from 4 to 15 minutes apart. I called my mom at 5:45 to have her come over because I felt like it would be better to have someone there in case we needed to dash off to the hospital. I was trying to find a supported position that was comfortable to maintain during a contraction, but was having trouble. All of a sudden, POP. GUSH. My water broke. It was about 7:15am and my husband had just rolled out of bed. I told him we needed to leave immediately, knowing that things could move really fast from that point and that I needed to get to the hospital with enough time to speak to the neonatologist on-call before she was born. My middle child came quick once active labor started and with him my water was intact until I started pushing, so I knew this could get interesting. We rushed out the door and we drove to the hospital.
We arrived at Cedars-Sinai at 7:40 am and the secretary told me he was sending me to a triage room. I told him I needed a regular room. He told me he’d take me to the room and I could talk to the nurse about it. I refused and asked to speak to the charge nurse. I explained that this was my third baby and that I labored for 1-½ hours (active labor) with my second and that my water had ruptured. I told her I was 3-4 cm at my exam 4 days earlier and I was 12 days past my due date. I concluded my argument: “You are not going to release me, so I’d like a regular room.” She agreed and sent me to a regular room.
I wasn’t able to get a hold of my doctor when we left the house. She had given me her cell, which I entered incorrectly in my phone and her office message system was not working properly and didn’t connect me to the answering service. So, my first order of business with the nurse was to make sure she called the doctor. Once we knew she was on her way, the nurse put me on the monitor. When the doctor arrived she did an exam and I was 7 cm. A few contractions later things seemed to just linger and so she checked again and I was almost 10 and she said if I felt the need to push I could. I just really didn’t want to.
I don’t remember pushing being painful or fearful with both boys, but it was very different this time. I just didn’t want to do it and I was afraid to do it. I tried different positions, but I was just miserable. I gently pushed with my breath a few times, not giving it the full force of my effort and before I knew it she was right there. I was awkwardly splayed on the bed and she had a little trouble working her shoulders out, but the doctor had me pull up on my legs she came right out and onto my tummy. PINK. BREATHING. A big question was whether cord clamping could be delayed, but it actually tore on its own and became a moot issue. She was born at 9:04 am, 12 days past her estimated due date, weighing 8 lbs, 2 oz..
Scott accompanied her to the NICU where they ordered tests and did further examinations and I was able to join them around 10:30 am, when the doctor was done fixing me up and I had a chance to shower. Although she had a high APGAR score and her vitals with 100% normal, she stayed in the NICU for 5 days while they ran several tests. During this time I was able to breastfeed her and pump for the times I was not able to be there (especially once I was discharged). It was determined that she has only one lung, but is expected to live a mostly normal life - she just may not be a runner. We can live with that.