Under the fluorescent lights, I restlessly changed positions in my wrinkled hospital gown, wanting to die. Even for 1 am, it was quiet, insanely quiet. Only the sound of my husband rubbing his hand against my clammy skin and the screams that managed to escape during each wave. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I’ve done this before, and I was supposed to be balancing a cup of ice chips on my tummy in a hospital suite while watching reruns of Martin. Instead, I was left in the emergency triage, trapped inside a white torture room with nothing but a bed, chair, and machine to measure contractions.
To say that my second childbirth experience and postpartum recovery were traumatic would be an understatement. I mean, it was terrible … had that been my first child, I would have been one and done. Finding out about my 3rd (and last) pregnancy made me reminisce about a time that I never want to revisit. Needless to say, I was straight up SCARED. All I could do was imagine the helpless feeling of being in the hospital, feeling like I was dying and everyone not knowing what they were doing. I couldn’t go through that or have to be hospitalized from postpartum preeclampsia again. I just couldn’t … After coming to terms with the inevitable, I decided that I would be more proactive and change my doctor, which would therefore change my hospital affiliation where I had the bad experience.
Upon meeting my new OB-GYN, I wasn’t impressed. She was very robotic and didn’t seem interested in my story about my last experience and how black women were more likely to die during childbirth, blah blah blah, and how I didn’t want to ever experience that again.
“Well we can induce you at 38 weeks and you will be in control,” she responded.
“Cool!” I thought. Nothing crazy was going to happen to me this time! Right? I would take control of this whole thing, and it would be convenient and painless like God intended it to be.
As the weeks went on, I noticed that with every doctor visit, my blood pressure would be sky high. I knew I had post-traumatic stress from the last experience, but didn’t my body realize this time I was gonna be in control? After some thought, I decided to hire a doula. Had I had one the last time, I figured I would have probably not had to go through all the drama. I ended up finding one and as we met, I got a chance to finally share every detail and emotion of my experience. With her calm and nurturing spirit, she assured me that no matter what, she would be there to advocate for me. HOWEVER, due to COVID-19 restrictions in hospitals at the time, they may not allow her to accompany us on the birth day. I started second-guessing everything. If that happened, that would defeat the purpose of everything I was trying to prevent. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long before I changed my decision altogether and ditched the idea of a hospital, doctor, and everything that came with it. I switched to a midwife at around 32 weeks.
With my son, I didn’t have an epidural. It wasn’t that I didn’t want one, I just never received it. I knew that if I could go through that dreadful pain unplanned and unprepared, surely I could handle it and be ready this time. Over the next 8 weeks, I made it my life’s mission to prepare myself in every way possible. Mind, body and soul. I did all kinds of research by talking to people who had natural births, joined Facebook groups, signed up for an online hypnobirthing class, read books, watched documentaries and countless positive birth stories on YouTube. I even made a vision board. All to equip myself with the knowledge to have a baby on my own terms, for once.
Finally, at 40 weeks and some change, I woke up around 4:30 am to a cramp and then a “warm” feeling. I made it to the bathroom and discovered my water had broken. I called my midwife and let her know what had happened and she had me check the color of the liquid. It was a light shade of green, meaning that it had meconium (baby poop) in the fluid. This could have been a drastic situation at a hospital, but she told me to drink something sweet to make sure the baby moved and to take my temperature. As long as all was well, try and lie down as much as I could because contractions would start soon. Just as she said, it wasn’t 20 minutes later before contractions started. Around 5:30 am, I called my doula who came to labor with me at home. We had already gone over different positions to handle contractions so I kind of already knew what to do and how to breathe through them before they started to get intense. As time went on, I noticed I couldn’t talk through them anymore. I could hear everything around me, including my playlist I made and my husband and my doula timing my contractions, but I couldn’t speak. I had to talk to myself and remember the affirmations I had practiced and fell asleep listening to many nights in bed. With pressure on my back, putting all my weight on my husband, switching positions and sips of warm red raspberry leaf tea, I made it to the second stage of labor. My doula and midwife decided it was time to make it to the birthing center. All I could think was, “If I can just make it there, this will all be over soon.”
The car ride there was tough as I had contractions every 2-3 minutes. It was raining and I could barely make it to and out of the car. Once we made it, the pool was already inflated and they were replacing the cover but since we had the hose with us, no water was in it yet. The contractions were now minutes apart, and I started feeling the urge to push. I never once screamed in pain or begged God to just kill me like the last time, I was actually in total control. They got me on the bed and I bent over on a birthing ball. With everything I had in me, I pushed a couple of times and then she was out. A 10lb carmel ham was free from my uterus and I was so relieved and happy that I did it. I didn’t realize that I had only been at the birthing center about 20 minutes before she was born. The time of my water breaking to her birth, labor and delivery took a total of about 4 ½ to 5 hours. We both got a chance to bond with her and eat, then I was discharged to recover at home about 3 hours later. Unlike the time before, my blood pressure remained normal and I was actually happy when the baby was born.
Only a couple weeks away from her first birthday, I know for sure that without all the preparation I had done, surrounding myself with a true support group, rebuilding my knowledge of my body, myself and the confidence I never knew I needed, I wouldn’t have had such a calm, beautiful experience. Despite what happened yesterday, tomorrow is always a new day and I’m proof.
Tools I Used to Equip my Mind & Body for a Natural Birth:
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
- Online Hypnobirthing Course
- Christian Hypnobirthing App
- The Business of Being Born Documentary