Birth is a personal journey.
From the day I found out I was pregnant with Liam, my first, I knew I wanted to experience a natural birth without the use of drugs or unnecessary interventions. Before even beginning to educate myself on pregnancy and labor, there was one thing I was instinctively convinced of: women are ALL made to give birth and do not require much help when the time comes to bring their beautiful babies into the world.
I was never for one second afraid of my ability to give birth.
When my husband and I met with our childbirth instructor, this philosophy became a passion of mine.
There are so many misconceptions about birth, and about cesareans being truly 100% unavoidable. Every baby is different and so is every woman… failure to progress is not always a reason to speed things up or discuss cesarean birth, especially for a first baby.
I am a true believer that pregnancy and childbirth are not illnesses, and should not be treated as such. Medical interventions should always be a last resort, an emergency.
I soon realized that my biggest fear about labor was that my choices would not be respected. Luckily for me, I had a strong support system for both of my sons’ births. My husband and I researched our options and were ready to make the choices that were right for our babies.
In our case, it was to switch from a traditional practice to a midwifery at 32 weeks pregnant with our first child. What felt like a nightmare at the time turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We did not want to feel pressured by any doctor telling us what we should or should not do in a situation other than an emergency. This bold, uncertain move resulted in two healthy pregnancies and natural births that changed my life for the better.
Every expecting mom should feel as empowered as I did throughout my pregnancies.
Educate yourself, do not give in to something that a doctor “pushes” if it doesn’t feel right, and trust that you were born to deliver your baby. Millions of women have done it before you, and you can do it too. Labor and delivery will not be the “nightmare” you have been taught to believe. It will be painful, yes, but manageable if you prepare for it. Powerful, beautiful, and beyond transformative.
I hope you enjoy browsing through my posts, and gain some confidence in the process. Birth doesn’t have to be a scary experience… even if our society (media, sources of entertainment, and modern medicine especially) seems to think it has to be.
My Birth Stories
February 6th, 2018
7 lbs. 15 oz. / 19.5 inches
During your first pregnancy, everything about the 40 week journey comes as a surprise. You keep coming up with possible scenarios of what your birth will be like, you don’t know what contractions truly feel like (that’s a good thing), what the “need to push” is, or even understand what that postpartum “high” will feel like.
If you’re anything like I was with my first baby, you’re book smart about the whole process (yes, I read a ton of books and articles about childbirth), but have no true experience. Bottom line: you’re on a roller coaster ride, and have no choice but to go with the flow.
I was not scared to give birth to Liam. I learned so much about childbirth over the course of my first pregnancy and felt empowered and confident. With Noah’s pregnancy, however, I was a bit more nervous. My thought process went something like this: I was lucky, blessed, enough to have one healthy baby. Would I really be this lucky twice in a row? I also knew from experience how painful contractions would be. I wasn’t just going into the experience blindly this time. I knew it would probably be one of the most challenging experiences of my life, once again.
If you read Liam’s birth story, you know that, one morning, six days past my due date, my water “trickled” out. Luckily, we went to the hospital to check, and, after a quick test, the nurses were able to confirm it was amniotic fluid. We checked into the hospital that night, and, after being induced early the next morning, our little man was born.
Well… Noah’s story began in an almost identical way, giving us all déjà vu. It was almost hard to believe that the game plan was Liam’s birth to a T.
But… a game plan is just a game plan, and if there’s one thing I learned during this second birth, it’s that no two births are the same, and you can absolutely not count on a plan being set in stone. We took some slight detours along the way, and Noah’s birth ended up being a personal challenge, with quite the dramatic ending.
Let me explain:
On Sunday night (a day before my actual due date), right after Joe came home from watching the Super Bowl with friends, I lost my mucus plug. This didn’t happen to me with Liam so I was a little frightened at first.
What the hell is happening? was my first thought, as I looked into the toilet bowl.
But… then, I got excited – things were definitely getting started, and it gave me hope that my body remembered what it had to do. It was almost time.
The next morning, I started questioning whether it was still mucus, or actual amniotic fluid that was still “trickling”. You would think that the difference between the two would be obvious, but it really wasn’t. We decided to drive to the hospital to double check, like we did with Liam.
This time, however, I really thought it wasn’t amniotic fluid and that the test would be negative. When the nurse said that it was, that my water had broken, my jaw literally dropped.
The midwife on call told us to go home, get our things ready, and meet her at the hospital after dinner. She wanted to make sure things “got started” twelve hours later, so that I would give birth around the 24 hour mark to avoid infection. She asked if I was having any contractions (I wasn’t), then recommended castor oil (which I declined, due to a bad experience the first time). She said she would check me at the hospital to see if I needed Cervidil to thin out my cervix overnight, or if we could just start out on a light Pitocin drip immediately.
We ran a few errands, went home, and finished packing our bags. We couldn’t believe the game plan sounded so much like Liam’s birth (water trickling, hospital after dinner, Cervidil overnight, Pitocin drip), and thought we knew what to expect at that point when it came to the whole experience. I was a bit bummed I wouldn’t get to labor at home, but figured that if this birth ended up being as smooth as Liam’s, there was really nothing to complain about.
When we got to the hospital that night, the first surprise was that I was already having some mild contractions. That made me feel a bit better about getting induced. The second was that I was already at zero station, 90% effaced, and 2 centimeters dilated. The good news was that we would not need Cervidil, but the bad—or scary—news was that we would start me off with the “big guns” right away.
The Pitocin drip was the most intense part of my labor with Liam (he was born only three hours later, after 5 pushes) and I knew how real these contractions would be in a few hours. Due to our previous experience with the drug, we assumed I would be giving birth in the middle of the night (not at noon, like with Liam), and prepared ourselves mentally for a quick, intense labor.
(If you’re not familiar with what Pitocin does, it is basically a synthetic version of Oxytocin, the hormone that your body naturally produces to induce contractions, and it is used to strengthen contractions. It makes the contractions more intense, but can speed up labor significantly.)
Turns out that I did not give birth a few hours later. The Pitocin was administered at 1:30am and, all night, my contractions intensified. At 6am, they were about 2 minutes apart and 40 seconds long. I had been on my feet the whole night, finding it helpful to lean over the bed or table during each wave of contractions. I refused to sit or lie down.
I have to admit that, although I feared the contractions the most going into this second birth, I handled them really well. I breathed deeply through each one, and really tried to keep my body as relaxed as possible to help them do their job. I even focused on not clenching my jaw or fists, and am convinced that letting go of everything helped me progress quickly.
After about six hours, I decided it would be a good time to get in the tub. With Liam, I got from 7 to 10 cm in the tub and found it amazing in terms of pain relief. For a natural birth, the key is to switch positions and find temporary comfort, and being able to relax in the warm water brought me so much relief.
However, this time, it didn’t. At all.
The second I hopped into the tub (I assume I was about 6-7cm at that point), my contractions stopped coming every 2 minutes, and decreased in intensity. You would think I’d be happy to stop being in pain, but I was super frustrated. All this hard work, and now nothing? The nurses told me to give it some time and not to worry, that I was still contracting, but I knew something was off. After a couple minutes in the tub, I told Joe I wanted to get out and start walking again.
Best. Decision. Ever.
The second I stood up, boom, a strong contraction took over my body. Then, less than a minute later, another one. I quickly realized that gravity was super important for this birth, and that being on my feet would get me to 10 cm. Just as Joe stepped out of the room to go get coffee (he told my mom to call him if things got crazy), my contractions intensified so much that I realized I was moving into the transition phase of labor. My steady breaths became moans, and I truly felt delirious, on the verge of tears, rocking back and forth against the bed. I knew that it was a matter of minutes before I’d feel the urge to push. It was crunch time.
I just didn’t think it would take two contractions.
At the end of my final contraction, I pushed, and the rest of my water broke. My mom panicked and ran into the hallway to call the midwife and nurses. It was a busy morning, and three other moms were close to pushing in the other hospital rooms around me, so it took the team a little while to rush in. At that point, I was already crawling up on the bed, nervous that the urge was coming on so strong. I was shaking from head to toe, and Joe was still nowhere to be found.
When everyone came in and the midwife checked me, they were concerned that I was still at zero station, but after one push, the baby descended. The midwife told everyone to stay put, and that things would probably speed up at this point. Joe came running in right then, shocked to find me on the bed.
With Liam, pushing actually felt good. I was so happy to be done with contractions, so excited that my body was taking over to do its thing, and I welcomed it. This time, however, I felt scared. The urge to push wasn’t as intense as it had been with Liam (although I did know it was time), and I still felt a good amount of contraction pain. The midwife told me to push, and within two, three pushes, Noah’s head was out.
But this is where it got a bit dramatic.
Once the head came out, the shoulders got stuck. No matter how hard I pushed (and trust me, I was giving it my all), nothing happened. Hearing the nurses yell “Johanna, you need to push!” over and over again, when I was already giving it my all, was very stressful, making me wonder if I’d be able to do it. I got into my head a bit, but, luckily, when the nurses pressed down on my lower belly during the next contraction, the shoulders slid through. This all happened pretty quickly, but it felt like a good half hour.
When Noah was propped on my chest, he was purple and took a few seconds to breathe. Liam cried and peed the second he was born, so I wasn’t prepared for this silence. I stared into my baby’s eyes, holding my breath.
When Noah finally let out a high pitched squeal, I don’t think I’d ever been that reassured in my entire life. The post birth high took over me and I cried, and cried, and cried.
We’d done it. We were healthy. It was the best feeling in the entire world.
Noah came into this world with a bang, but all that matters is that he was born healthy. He latched onto my breast immediately with a strong, confident suckle. I can’t begin to explain how complete I felt at that moment, holding my sweet baby boy.
When I think about this second birth, I realize that you have zero control over how your baby decides to enter this world. The “game plan” changed multiple times throughout the night/morning, and Noah’s birth turned out nothing like Liam’s. Even the things I thought I’d use and love (yoga ball, tub) were totally different this time. You cannot predict how you’ll feel and what will work for you on the spot. Every birth is different, and each one has its own challenges and victories.
I am so proud of myself for having had a second epidural-free birth and coping through contractions as well as I did. I stayed in my head, in my bubble, and didn’t let the pain (or the shrieks coming from the other delivery rooms) get the best of me. And, this time, my midwife was hands off – like I said, it was a busy night – so I really had no help throughout labor. I had to follow my gut when it came to positions that would help my labor along, and those that just didn’t work for me. I had to boost myself back up when I lost confidence and faith in my body’s ability to labor on its own.
Was it easier the second time around? No, definitely not, but the work was a bit shorter (7 vs 10 hours), I felt more comfortable throughout active labor because I knew the intensity was normal, and the recovery took a lot less time. I also felt a lot more comfortable when I got home, not as disoriented as the first time around.
Only a day later (and even now, five days postpartum), I felt brand new. I am in awe of the female body and its ability to go through something as powerful as childbirth and bounce back so quickly. When I was in the recovery room, Noah swaddled in my arms, it almost felt like the whole delivery was just a distant “dream”. I was on an adrenaline high, a little cocoon of bliss, a feeling I’d completely forgotten about… and didn’t realize I’d missed all along.
To you Mommies about to go through childbirth a second time, my first piece of advice to you is to stay calm and confident in your ability to have a healthy, positive birth. We are so incredibly strong and don’t give ourselves the credit we deserve. Remember: We are made for this! My second piece of advice is to try not to have any expectations, or think that things will go the same way as the first time around. In my case, it felt like an entirely different experience. Try to let go of all of your fears and tensions and allow the contractions to bring you closer and closer to your baby. It’s all about perspective: if you look at them as a positive (which they are), they will hurt less. Don’t look at them as a whole, but focus on each individual one. Stay in a positive, controlled headspace. Don’t fight the contractions – give in to them. The stronger they get, the closer you are to the end, the closer you are to your baby.
What a gift motherhood is. Little Noah James, you complete our family, and I feel blessed to be your Mama. I will cherish it all – even those tough nights – because, this time, I know those special moments with you are only fleeting. One day you won’t need me as much as you do now, so I will not take a second it for granted. I feel so lucky that you chose me to be your mom. Now on to this new chapter, this whirlwind, as a new mom of two!
June 26th, 2015
7 lbs. 12 oz. / 18.75 inches
As my due date approached, finally came, and the days following it started ticking… two, three, four, five… I started prepping myself for labor. Not the physical effort itself, but the emotional impact it would have on me if things did not go as planned.
What would I do if I needed to have an emergency cesarean, for example? Would I still see Liam’s birth as a fulfilling one? How would I feel if it affected everything else I had in mind, like immediate skin to skin after delivery and breastfeeding? What would I do if my body needed the extra help (aka drugs) to progress from early to active labor? Would I be okay with that?
My water broke (well, trickled) at 9 A.M. on Thursday morning, two hours before my scheduled ultrasound appointment. My husband, Joe, and I decided to stop at the hospital to check if it was really amniotic fluid.
The nurses at Phelps Memorial Hospital confirmed that it was.
Later that day, I felt my first real contractions, about 5-7 minutes apart and mild. As a first time mom, I wondered how intense they would get (I was handling them really well, I thought, at the time.) I called my midwife and let her know that they hadn’t stopped and were slowly building in intensity. She asked that I eat dinner at home and meet her at the hospital that night around 9 P.M.
My mom, Joe, and I packed our hospital bags in the car and went right away.
When Robin, my midwife, came in, checked me, and told me the plan, I wasn’t thrilled. First, she said that the contractions I’d been having all day weren’t “true” labor contractions. They were close together but not intense enough. She recommended that we use a gel called Cervidil to soften my cervix overnight at the hospital. We would check me the following morning and decide what the plan would be if things didn’t progress. This would mean breaking the rest of my water and starting me on a light Pitocin drip.
Surprisingly, Joe was the one with the doubts. “Two weeks ago, you would never have agreed to do this,” he told me, when she left the room. “Are you sure you’re okay with it?”
He was right, but deep down, I trusted Robin’s advice. She knew how I felt about unnecessary interventions, but also knew, with her experience, how long I could potentially be in labor without the extra help.
Early the next morning, Robin said the Cervidil had done its job: my cervix had softened and the baby’s head was a lot lower in my pelvis. The intense contractions I’d had the whole night, though, still weren’t strong enough to move things along. This surprised me because the pain I’d experienced all night was definitely real — I couldn’t lie down for more than a minute and spent the night in a rocking chair, breathing through the contractions, watching them on the monitor. My mom and Joe slept for a few hours on their two small cots beside me.
Robin said that if it was okay with me, she would break the rest of my water and start me on a Pitocin drip. I had chills as I agreed, wondering if it was a big mistake. After all the research I’d done on inductions, I knew there was a greater likelihood of a domino effect eventually leading to a cesarean birth. Robin reassured me and said they would only use a small amount of Pitocin to trigger my own body’s contractions. They would then stop it when I reached 4 cm and let me labor in the tub naturally. I became nervous about how intense the pain would become after that. I was already very uncomfortable.
My mother reassured me as soon as Robin left the room: this was exactly the same thing she’d gone through for my birth. The Pitocin had helped her enormously and I was born quickly and above all, healthy.
Before the Pitocin even kicked in, the contractions became longer, more intense. I started getting very focused, unable to sit still. I focused on my breathing and luckily, had a wide array of positions to choose from thanks to Robin. She had me lean on Joe’s arms, letting go of my lower body, which helped a lot. She laid down pillows on the raised hospital bed and had me rock my hips back and forth. When I told her, in between contractions, that the pain was getting intense, she checked me.
Sure enough, I was at 4-5 cm and ready to hop in the tub.
The relief I felt in the warm water was immediate: my body loosened and relaxed as the water enveloped me. At this point, I had to focus all of my energy on my breaths: long intakes of air and strong exhales. Joe held my hand as I entered the most difficult stage of labor: transition.
Although the tub was a lot better than being on solid ground at this point, the contractions I felt were beyond anything I had ever experienced. My body caved and arched itself as I tried desperately to breathe through them as I had done for the past seven or eight hours. Exhausted from the night before, I took 30 second naps in between each contraction. When they started again, I tried to let go of everything and breathe, tell myself that with each contraction there was a build up, a peak, and then a decline, but the pain became more and more difficult to control.
During my final contraction, I said I couldn’t do it. Funny that I uttered those words out loud because I had a strong feeling we were nearing the end.
The echo of voices — Robin, my mom, and Joe — all reassured me.
“You’re doing amazing.”
“Yes you can. You are so strong.”
“ You are so close now. This is it.”
Seconds after that, I felt the overpowering urge to push and sure enough, I let out a strong groan as my belly dropped. Joe couldn’t help shouting in unison with me.
This was it — the final stretch.
Robin checked me immediately. She looked me in the eye, a grin spreading across her face.
“You’re done,” she said, smiling.
I got out of the tub, she dried me off, and I made my way back to the hospital bed for the final stage of labor.
Pushing was almost a relief. After such intense contractions, I enjoyed the way my body took over and almost did the work for me. I pushed with every last bit of grit and energy I had in me. I felt Liam’s head pressing down on my first push but when the contraction went away, Robin told me to stop pushing, breathe, and let her know when the next one came. Two, three, four pushes, the head was out.
Robin gave Joe a pair of gloves and told him to help her with the birth. With tears in his eyes, he told me he could see his dark brown hair.
The “pain” wasn’t anything close to what I had experienced during transition. I didn’t feel delusional and out of control, but powerful and empowered. A warrior. The most difficult part was behind me and I was about to cross the finish line. No episiotomy, only Robin’s expert hands and arnica oil to do the job.
During the fifth and final push, I felt everything drop and the rest of Liam’s body followed. I stared in amazement at our son, our creation, right there between my thighs. He cried immediately and even urinated on Robin (which is apparently good luck!)
The rest is a blur: the few first degree stitches, the placenta, the blood… I had my son in my arms. My beautiful baby boy. All I remember is Robin telling me what an amazing job I had done.
“You do good work, Mama,” she said. “That was incredible.”
In the background, I heard Joe ask her about the blood. “Is that the normal amount?”
She told him it was a little more than expected but I didn’t care, my nose buried in Liam’s hair, his little warm body against mine.
Later, Robin told me that Liam had started his descent in a posterior position. I hadn’t felt any contractions in my back, luckily, but Robin explained that it was probably why I was stuck at 4 cm for what felt like so long.
When the room was cleaned up, Robin left us in the room to bond with our son, who latched on to my right breast right away: the most incredible feeling in the world. I had been blessed with a natural, vaginal birth with no epidural, episiotomy, and/or unnecessary interventions. Pitocin took me from 2 cm to pushing in less than three hours. My son and I were both alert and ready to breastfeed and it showed instantly. Everything was as perfect as could be. An hour later, I was out of bed, feeling like myself again. I felt this high, this adrenaline, for the next 72 hours: no exhaustion and not even the slightest amount of pain.
Bottom line is this: Over and over again, I was told to be open minded about birth. I had a plan in my mind and despite worrying about the way things would go (the baby’s position, my fear of a cesarean birth, the worry that I wouldn’t have a say in my birth), I always had faith in my body and ability to labor naturally. The fact that my water broke early was beyond my control but I am 100% happy with the choices I made: Switching from an OB/GYN to a midwifery practice at 32 weeks of pregnancy and a gentle induction of labor to get things going.
I got the midwife-assisted, vaginal, epidural-free birth I wanted. I didn’t need an episiotomy. It was a personal journey I had to take on my own and I’ve never been more proud of myself for anything I’ve ever done. No one could take the pain of labor away from me, but I did it anyway, and I did it well. I can truly say that I fully experienced childbirth in all of its intensity and power. What a victory. I did it all for you, Liam, and will forever consider myself the luckiest woman in the world. Now on to the next chapter of my life… as your mom.
There is nothing more inspiring that hearing of natural birth stories, especially when they are life changing. Thank you ladies for sharing your beautiful births!
Jolene Millo – Yonkers, New York (October 2nd, 2015)
“Five days after conceiving, I knew I was pregnant. I had not yet missed a period, but I was sure. A week and a half later, I cried tears of joy as my husband triumphantly held up the positive pregnancy test. I would once again cry tears of joy at my first sonogram, when we were told we were having twins.
I talked to my obstetrician about my plans for a vaginal delivery. She explained that there were many factors that would influence my ability to deliver vaginally. Her biggest concern was that there were two babies and it was my first pregnancy. I was told all the risks, and began to feel unsure of my choice after the conversation. I continued to hope for a vaginal delivery, but didn’t feel supported and therefor did not push the issue at my doctor’s office.
As happy as my first few weeks of pregnancy were, those blissful days were followed by fear and uncertainty for the remainder of the pregnancy. I suffered multiple bleeds, weight fluctuations between the twins, a suspected kidney abnormality of one twin, and bi-weekly perinatologist visits. At 28 weeks, I was placed on strict bed rest for a thinning cervix. As the pregnancy progressed, and my cervix thinned more, I just prayed my babies would be born healthy. I abandoned my plans of a vaginal delivery, and justified that as long as they’re born healthy, I will be thankful. What happened to my joyful pregnancy? I felt so out of control.
On a Friday morning, 34 weeks and 2 days into my pregnancy, I woke up in labor. My water broke at 9am and I took my time getting ready to go to the hospital. About 45 minutes later I was bent of the sink in the bathroom crying in pain and frustration. My husband helped me into the car for the half hour drive to the hospital. On the way we tried counting the time between contractions, but it felt like the pain just kept coming without a pause. We arrived at the hospital and I was immediately taken to the OR. The doctor on call checked me and said I was fully dilated. Everything was happening so fast, and I was overwhelmed. The anesthesiologist came in and asked if I wanted an epidural. I did.
As I lay there with 15+ people in the room- NICU nurses, NICU doctors, labor and delivery nurses and the delivering doctor- I made the decision to deliver with no medication. It was the first decision I had been able to make about my pregnancy and body in a long time. I decided that I needed to maintain control of my body the one way I could, which was to deliver my babies vaginally and to do it my own way. Once I accepted the pain and birth in its entirety, I began to feel empowered. My desperation was replaced my determination. I was acutely aware of every aspect of the delivery going forward- I felt every push as my daughters head moved down the canal and her beautiful face emerged. She came out screaming! After a brief moment in my arms she was whisked away to the NICU. I wish I could have held her just a little longer.
At this point the staff realized I meant to deliver both my babies vaginally, and I was taken into a regular delivery room to deliver my son. They asked me again if I wanted an epidural for his delivery but I declined it. I delivered my tiny son 2 hours later with no pain medication.
I still don’t know exactly how to answer when people ask me how I delivered twins naturally. I think the strength came from a part of me that wanted to feel the raw emotion of the delivery. My entire pregnancy I had so few choices. I spent more time being scared than preparing for my babies. Delivering naturally with no medication was the only thing that was truly my choice. It was my moment, and I followed my instincts. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, and the most rewarding. When other women who are considering natural birth ask my opinion, I tell them to trust themselves. I tell them to listen to their bodies, and not allow others to discourage them.
My story is so different (and much less glamorous) from most of the birth stories of women who choose to deliver naturally. Yet, it needs to be shared just the same. Writing this story has been therapeutic and I hope I’ve inspired at least one woman to advocate for themselves during pregnancy. Not every woman has the choice to deliver vaginally and with no pain interventions, and I feel privileged to have had the experience. And maybe, just a little bit, like superwoman. All of us mothers are, after all.”
Gabriela Davila Bengoa – San Juan, Puerto Rico (October 13th, 2014)
All throughout my pregnancy I knew I wanted to have an all natural birth. No medications what so ever. However, I personally felt more comfortable being in a hospital, just in case. I prepared myself with my breathing, researching, exercising, and a healthy diet. I was 39 weeks when signs of labor began. I felt contractions at 1:00 am and knew that this was it. Once in the hospital I waited patiently until 7 am, and then my contractions got closer together. By 11 am I had my baby! What worked for me during the birthing process was focusing on one single spot in the room. I didn’t speak much, and I asked (or screamed) for my parents and husband to be as quiet as possible. There was a point when I thought I couldn’t take the pain much longer, but that’s when you really have to believe in yourself and your ability to give birth the way nature intended.
My favorite moment was when I finished pulling my baby out myself and resting him on my chest. It was truly magical. Choosing a natural birth doesn’t only benefit you with a speedy recovery, but it allows you to experience the beauty of being a woman. I was very proud of myself and in love with my baby boy.
Shereen Visser – Amsterdam, The Netherlands (April 30th, 2009)
It all started when I got boobs for the first time in my life, hated the smell of my own perfume and decided to quit smoking after all those years completely out of the blue… I didn’t know it yet but my body did — my life was changing. Then came that cross that popped up on my pregnancy test and instantly, I was filled with so much love and joy and just the certainty that everything was going to work out all on its own, my body knew how this worked even if I was clueless.
That might sound like hippie talk to a lot of people, the same way as my choice for a home birth is perceived as a new age hobo choice to most of my co-workers and some friends but it just isn’t, it’s just my experience.
I saw my sister being born at home, I was born in the Netherlands where home births are very common and all that probably influenced me more than I believe it did but it is not the reason for my ‘chosen’ path.
When I saw my sister being born at the age of 5 I did not have some kind of revelation where I thought “this is how I’ll do it”, no way! I was grossed out and ran to the attic until that whole ordeal was over and done with. Still, when my midwife asked me on that first meeting how I wanted to deliver my baby, I hadn’t even thought about it yet because it just didn’t feel like that was a choice I needed to make, I didn’t feel like there was any other way for me… This baby would be born in the comfort of our home, my family would be there and that’s that, unless foreseeable complications were to arise, I didn’t even want to hear the word hospital.
Now I realize that I am lucky everything went well and that that just isn’t the case for everyone but I do feel that my attitude towards pregnancy and giving birth has a lot to do with why everything went so well.
When I think about my pregnancy I can barely recall a time I was happier. I had bad symptoms like everyone else, my ‘morning’ (LIES! It does NOT just happen in the morning) sickness was terrible, I threw up everything I ate for months which for a foodie is the ultimate punishment, I gained a LOT of weight, way more than all my beautiful now pregnant friends (hint hint Jo’) and I have way too many stretch marks to show for it.
Sure, if I were to focus on all those things, focus on the vomit, the back aches, the fatigue, the way my body changed, the fact that he was 13 days overdue and I was one day away from being induced… it would probably feel like a really bad experience but that just wasn’t what stuck. I felt amazing. I was in my bubble of love and happiness enjoying every second of it, I was creating life out of nothing and I truly felt like every moment was miraculous. I never complained about any of it because I knew this was the process and that was fine with me. I’ll sound corny to those who don’t know me and that’s fine. If my friends hadn’t been there to witness this they wouldn’t have believed me either because I’m French and we LOVE to complain. I am no exception. This was so different, though…
On the big day, I had contractions most of the day. They went from bearable cramps, similar to those of a heavy period, to a really intense pain that put me in and out of a sleep-like state, another way your body helps you to cope with the pain naturally.
It was all very painful, I’ve never lied about that, but to me it always made sense somehow that in order to get something as amazing as a BABY, it’s normal to have to work for it a little…
I dealt with the pain as well as I could, I tried to relax, listen to my surroundings, focused on my mother and partner’s voices, the music my mother put on for me and just my body … I did everything I could to just accept the pain, fighting it was only going to make the process longer and more painful and at this point all I wanted was for it to be quick so it felt natural to just let it happen.
I should probably mention I didn’t go to a single childbirth class… I figured that once I’d be in pain there would be little to no chance that I’d remember those classes. Also, they very actively involve your partner which is nice but I didn’t feel like we needed that, we were already very connected and together during this experience. I also felt like this was something I was going to have to do on my own, he would be there for me in his own way and I’d probably want to squeeze his hand once or twice but that’s it. I know myself and I knew the last thing I’d want once in that much pain was to have someone talking softly in my ear and sitting behind me caressing my belly! just like when you’ve had too much to drink and think you want someone holding your hair up… you don’t! At least I don’t, I’m too proud… and I was right.
He was there and was amazing, he did everything right to me, he knew when to step in but also when to give me my space, as for the breathing, my mother is a yoga teacher and guided him through it so he’d know how to help me… they were incredible.
Once I was allowed to start pushing it took 20 minutes …. After 20 minutes all that pain just stopped and felt like a distant memory and I was given the best reward ever… holding my baby, this amazing beautiful little baby who I finally found out was a boy (the gender was a surprise, we didn’t want to know). He was strong, healthy, and he looked at me for a split second when they put him on my stomach… I didn’t even understand what it was that I was feeling because it was so surreal… MY SON.
I can’t tell you how good it felt to be home after all that, to just climb into my own shower and have my mom warm up a home cooked meal, to have my little sister there as well (she freaked out by the way which is funny since I did too when she was born). If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I was lucky enough to not have to work for a year which is about how long I breastfed him, another amazing experience that I will cherish forever and sometimes even really miss.
So that’s my birth story… Next week he will turn 6. He’s such an amazing kid, and I know that all parents say that about their children but he really really is and I’ve always felt like it had a little bit to do with how we started our relationship from the very beginning, he was loved from the very start and was given the best introduction to life I could’ve wished for him.
My advice for anyone struggling with the choice is: do what you feel comfortable with and TRUST YOURSELF. That’s what I did, I didn’t consider what people think is right, or what others told me, or scary stories I heard or read… I just went with my gut and decided to try my best at all of it, that’s also what I’ve been doing since the day he was born… my best. As mothers that’s all we can do. Also, learn to accept and let go if things when they don’t go your way because they never really will, a lot of things went differently than what I had planned that day, for example, my midwife had to leave midway and another midwife came for the final part… I hated it but just felt like I needed to let that go because I didn’t want to be feeling anything negative during such an important moment. That was one of my first real lessons with letting go and accepting that not everything was or needed to be in my control.
Being a mother starts before your child is born. Learning to put him before yourself starts straight away but we’re only human, we make mistakes, we’re flawed, we can be weak… that’s all fine as long as we know we’ve done all we could. Trust yourself, all the way.
Becoming Loukas’ mother has changed me in the best way. I can barely remember what mattered before him. I may have given him life but he’s the one who made me come alive.
Karen Scaramuzzo Su – Hopewell Junction, New York (March 1st, 2007)
When I found out I was pregnant with Chloe I decided I was going to have a natural birth to avoid the complications I suffered from having an epidural during my first labor with Johnathan. I concentrated a lot on Lamaze during my pregnancy and I found it extremely helpful during labor. I also labored for a long time at home before I went to the hospital just because I wanted to relax as much as possible before labor got too intense. I was six cm dilated on arrival to the hospital and my water broke naturally about a half an hour later. I felt every sensation which was so different from my first labor.
My favorite part of having a natural birth was being able to feel the sensation of needing to push. I remember telling the nurse that I felt like I had to push and her response was that it wasn’t time yet since I was only six cm dilated and my water hadn’t broke yet. I nodded in agreement but I knew what I was feeling and I knew Chloe was coming. I felt the sensation again of needing to push and before I could even say anything my water broke and out came Chloe’s head along with it. I pushed about three times and felt everything, but it was amazing. After Chloe was born I felt so awake and alert. I just felt like my body did what it knew it could and I had no need to recover from anything.