Caroline’s birth story (natural birth in a hospital)

This beautiful birth story was written by one amazing woman, Jill – she was my doula client and also attended my December 2013 {Fearless Mama Gentle Birth} childbirth classes. Her precious daughter Caroline was born after 20 hours of natural labor – peaceful, calm, intimate, beautiful labor filled with soothing showers and gentle kisses. Her mom was so strong!! I’m still in awe how relaxed she was – she owned every piece of her labor. I’m so proud of her and so happy and humbled to have witnessed such a miraculous moment. Get a box of tissues and enjoy this inspiring and empowering story. May it give you courage and strength on your own journey.

Dear Caroline,

Today you are 9 days old and sleeping peacefully beside me as I sit down to write the story of your birth. I’ve considered myself a writer for as long as I can remember, but I know that this particular writing “assignment” will be my most challenging yet. But after giving birth to you and being your mom for these past 9 days, I have a new confidence that I can take on any challenge, so here goes…

Let me begin at the beginning, so you know how the thought of you came to be. Your dad and I always knew that we wanted a family. While we wanted to wait until the “right time” in our marriage, in reality, we knew that there would never truly be a perfect time to completely change our lives. There was always something else happening—recovering from Hurricane Sandy, traveling to Europe, running the New York City Marathon. You can’t plan everything in life so perfectly, we learned, so we decided to just open up our lives to the possibility of you. We waited for you for many months and experienced disappointment when, month after month, there was no sign of you. But we knew you’d come when you—and we—were ready.

It was June 18, 2013 (11 days after my 30th birthday!) that we discovered you were real and that you’d be joining us in about 8 months. We were surprised, overjoyed, excited, enamored—so many emotions at once. Yet you didn’t quite feel real yet, as many times as we looked at the little piece of plastic telling us you were.

Slowly, with time, the news of you began to feel more real. I felt some symptoms. We told some friends and family. We visited the doctor, heard your heartbeat and saw the little dot on the ultrasound that the technician assured us was an 8-week-old you.

Things moved quickly then—or at least it seems that way in hindsight. I counted each week and thought about how big you were growing deep inside my belly. I worried a little, to be perfectly honest, about whether I was providing a good home to you and whether you were healthy and safe in there. I wondered about what life would be like when you arrived and what you would be like—your personality, your looks, your everything.

My belly grew! Not all at once, but gradually, so that I had the opportunity to get used to the idea of you—the new life inside me and the new life we were embarking on together. I started to plan for your arrival. Not just the tangible things, like registering for gifts and planning a baby shower (although yes, I did those at great length!). But for your arrival itself—for your birth.

I began to read about the process of birth and all of the possibilities it brings. How babies enter the world today and how it has happened over the years. All that could go wrong and all that could go right. I learned more than I ever thought possible about birth. I watched documentaries; I read articles and books; I watched YouTube videos. I had a voracious appetite for knowledge and just couldn’t get enough. I met Veronika, who became our birth doula, and she helped me to see all of the wonderful possibilities that birth could bring. Your dad and I attended childbirth education classes with Veronika and two other expectant couples and prepared for the big day.

But really, nothing could fully prepare us for the day of your birth—as difficult as that is for your planning-obsessed mom! As much as my knowledge grew and as prepared as I felt mentally, I also knew that there was another piece of your birth that I couldn’t fully prepare for—the emotional piece. The piece that I wouldn’t feel until that day; the piece that would test me and give me strength simultaneously; the piece that would make me your mom.

In the final weeks before your birth, I had a lot of time to think. It was the heart of winter and we had so much snow and ice that it was difficult for me to even go outside without clinging to your dad’s arms for fear of falling and hurting us. Plus. I was no longer going into the office (instead, I sat on the couch with my computer and phone, in my pajamas!) so my days were much quieter and calmer than ever before. I prepared for you as much as I could—filling out my maternity leave paperwork, ordering a breast pump, finishing projects at work, going to my weekly midwife appointments (and each time telling the girl at the front desk that I hoped I wouldn’t see her the next week!). I talked to you in my tummy; I created a playlist to listen to during labor; I visualized what the day would be like, all the while knowing it could never be exactly as I envisioned in my mind.

Your due date, February 22, came and went. Every day I fielded phone calls and text messages from friends, family and co-workers (but mostly your grandma Ellie!) asking if you had arrived yet. It became so frustrating! But Veronika and the midwives assured me that you’d come when you were ready. That your heartbeat was strong and that you were moving further down in my belly into position. That you were choosing your own birthday.

Finally, on the evening of February 25, after a few false starts, I felt something that I thought could be real. It started as a little, shooting pain in the small of my back. I didn’t know if it was just my usual pregnancy back pain, or something more. I sat on my yoga ball that evening, watching television with your Vovo, daddy and Samba. Your daddy massaged my back and it felt a little better, but the pains were still coming every so often. I decided around 10:00pm that I better try to get some rest if it really was about to be the big day.

Your dad and I settled into bed with Samba and they both fell asleep quickly. But I couldn’t rest. Partly because of the pain; partly because I couldn’t stop my mind from racing, thinking of you and all of the possibilities the coming hours would bring. I was excited and scared. I couldn’t stay in the bed, so I got up and walked around the bedroom as the contractions came. Your daddy slept through it all, but Samba kept poking her head up from her curled-up position near daddy’s legs—she knew her sister was on her way!

Around 1am I decided to send a text message to Veronika, letting her know that I thought I was in early labor. Around 3am we spoke on the phone and she confirmed what I thought; it was real! Around 5am, I asked her to come to the house to help me manage through the contractions and prepare to go to the hospital. She arrived around 6am and we got to work! My contractions were about 5 minutes apart and I needed to hold onto the kitchen island counter through each one—it was the only place I felt comfortable, although certainly not where I’d pictured in my mind spending the early hours of labor! Veronika helped me through each contraction with strong words and even stronger back massage. Vovo made me breakfast while your dad finished packing our bags and brought them to the car.

Time passed so quickly. Soon I was on the phone with the midwife, Lisa, and then we were headed to Morristown hospital. Of course, it was rush hour and snowing! But nothing could stop us from meeting you. I zipped my winter coat over my big belly (for what would be the last time!) and we walked to the car. I had to stop and lean against the fence outside our house to have a contraction. I wondered if the neighbors could see me, but I didn’t care! Daddy helped me into the back seat of the car. I had to squat backwards with my head on a pillow facing the rear window, breathing through my contractions and trying to distract myself with the radio (I sang along to the Katy Perry song “Dark Horse” and it made me feel strong!).

Around 9am, we arrived at the hospital. This part felt like the movies. Your dad pulled up to the entrance and hopped out of the car, opening the door for me. I slowly climbed out. A hospital worker asked if we wanted a wheelchair but I said no, it felt better to walk. While your dad parked the car, I stood inside the hospital lobby, leaning against the window ledge, breathing and swaying my hips. Soon your dad came inside and we went into the Labor & Delivery area. We had to wait a few minutes for a room so once again I leaned against the wall and worked through my contractions. They were becoming more painful, but it felt good when your dad pressed against my back and hips.

Finally, they had a room for us—but it wasn’t the water birth room we had requested. I was disappointed, but they assured us we could move to a water birth room soon. So we brought all of our bags and got settled (but not too settled!) into the first room. The nurse and midwife first made me lay down on the hospital bed so that they could monitor my contractions and check your heartbeat. This was the hardest part! It felt so much better to be standing and the pain was almost unbearable when I was laying on my back. It felt like time stood still while I was laying down being monitored. The nurse asked me all sorts of silly questions that I’d already answered on my hospital registration paperwork—like my social security number and whether I smoked. I was trying hard to be calm because I knew she was just doing her job, but it was frustrating!

Soon they let me stand up again and it felt so much better. I spent some time in the shower and it felt so good to feel the warm water on my back and belly. Me, your dad and Veronika were a team and they did whatever they could to make me feel good and strong during the contractions and relaxed in between. Veronika dimmed the lights and put up your beautiful 3-D ultrasound picture to remind me of you and the journey we were making together. I put on some music and your daddy and I slow danced to some of our favorite songs and songs that made me think about you. I cried a lot during this time, because I was so overcome with emotion for you and what was about to happen. I had a mantra in my mind: This is our journey to meet our baby. Repeating this (through moans and groans with each contraction!) helped me stay focused on why I was feeling this pain and the joy it would soon bring me.

At some point, the nurse told us the water birth room was ready for us and led us down the hallway (although I don’t remember this walk at all!). Once there, Veronika set up the room by dimming the lights, stringing white twinkle lights on the wall and placing your ultrasound photo in front of me. We continued to work through each contraction with massage, hip swaying, ball-bouncing and time in the shower—basically doing whatever felt good and worked to ease the pain.

Despite the pain, I tried to stay quiet and calm, not really speaking much. Of course, in my mind I was thinking things like “Ohmigod, that contraction was even more painful than the last one!” and “How did I get myself into this situation!?” and yes, even some curse words. But I didn’t verbalize them, or any other negative thoughts, because I had this feeling that saying them aloud would make them more real and lead me down a rabbit hole of even more pain and more anxiety. I tried not to think about pain medication or other options that were not how I planned to give birth to you, but of course they crept into my mind. I thought about all of the other women who received epidurals and how easy their birth experiences must be, but then just as quickly I reminded myself of why I was choosing this path—the benefits it would bring to you and our relationship right from the start. I could only think of you, you, you to get me through those difficult moments.

My main goal at this point was to get into the wonderful, warm jacuzzi tub, which I believed and hoped would relieve some of my pain and make your delivery smoother. But then I received some difficult news from Lisa, the midwife. When she was checking to see how dilated I was to determine if I was ready to go into the tub, she noticed that my water had broken and you had passed meconium (that means you pooped inside mommy’s belly!). Because of the risk of infection, that meant I could not go into the birthing tub at all. I was crushed. I felt like the relief I had been working towards had been snatched away from me with no warning and no alternative plan. I think this was the moment I let one tiny curse word slip out of my lips…

But somehow, our team kept going. Veronika encouraged me to get back under the warm water of the shower and sit on the yoga ball. The nurse wanted to monitor my contractions and your heart rate during this time, which I feared would mean spending more time laying flat on the bed, but instead they let me use a wireless monitor attached to my belly by some bands. I was able to wear this into the shower, but it kept slipping off when I was bouncing on the yoga ball and the nurse would rush in because your heart rate was slowing down on the monitor. But I knew you were fine and that your heart beat was strong—you had been so strong all along.

Finally the midwife checked my cervix again and I was 8-9cm dilated, but she said that I had been pushing too much and my cervix, which had previously been very thin, was now hard again. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I’d been doing all of the right things to bring you closer, but it turns out I wasn’t. This news—combined with the fact that I was entering the most difficult stage of labor—really drove me crazy. I wanted to scream, I wanted to quit, I wanted someone to offer me another option other than moving forward toward the pain.

But I kept going. Now, thinking back on it, I don’t really know how I did it. You must have been lending me some of your strength. The midwife instructed me to be as calm and relaxed as possible (not easy to do on command!) so that’s what I did. Your dad helped me through these difficult moments, telling me how strong I was and reminding me how close we were to meeting you.

Soon, something changed inside me. I felt you pushing down on me, telling me you were nearly ready to enter the world. I’d always wondered how I would know when it was time to push, but there was no doubt in my mind in the moment. I asked Veronika to get the midwife and see if I could start pushing. It was then back to the bed so the midwife could check me. She confirmed that I was almost 10cm and she just needed to push a little piece of cervix out of the way before I could start pushing. Ouch…that part really hurt, but it was over quickly and then the midwife stood up and matter-of-factly told me I could now push.

I started pushing, oddly enough, on the toilet. This may seem strange but it was the best position to bring you down and get the most out of each push. At first, I had no idea exactly how to push. I had done so much research about labor and managing through contractions, but I hadn’t thought much about how to approach pushing. Luckily I had my team to get me started and then my natural instincts quickly took over. They told me to take a big, deep breath at the height of each contraction, hold my breath in, and bear down while curling my body into a “C” shape. I tried to get 3 strong pushes during each contraction. It wasn’t easy at first—it was hard to know when the contractions had reached their peak and when to start the next push. The midwives gave me instructions throughout, telling me to reach down and hold onto my feet and pretend as if I was having the biggest bowel movement of my life (sorry, Caroline, but it’s true and that’s exactly what it felt like!). Between each set of pushes, the student midwife Nicole would monitor your heart beat using a portable Doppler monitor and—of course—you were perfect every time. You were doing just as much work as I was and staying strong the entire time.

After about 30 minutes of pushing on the toilet, I felt the unmistakable feeling of your head emerging. The midwife told me that it was probably too soon to be feeling your head, but that they’d check me anyway if I came over to the bed. I asked them how I could possibly be expected to walk over to the bed?! Somehow I waddled over there. Yes, they finally confirmed, the baby’s head is right there! It was time.

The next few minutes were a blur. The midwives were suddenly wearing blue scrubs and a fluorescent overhead light appeared. The footboard of the bed was removed and two stirrups popped up. Several people stood around me, telling me to push. It was so surreal—and not how I’d ever pictured my delivery going. But in that moment, my serene waterbirth dreams were a distant memory because I knew how soon I was going to meet you.

So pushing on the bed commenced, and quickly progressed. After the first set of pushes, the midwives informed me that your head was emerging and if I reached down, I could feel it myself, which I did. Touching you for the first time gave me the second (or third…or tenth?) wind I needed to keep going. With another excrutiating push, they told me that your head was out—I couldn’t believe it! One more push, they said, and the rest of your body would be out and I could finally meet you. I pushed as hard as I could and within seconds, you were placed on my belly. My baby was here! Your father and I laughed and smiled and kissed. (I always thought I’d cry the moment you were born, but I was too happy!)

One of the nurses called out the time of your birth—7:01pm—and someone asked whether you were a boy or a girl. We hadn’t even thought to look yet! Daddy flipped you over and called out, “It’s a girl!” We were both in shock—we thought you were going to be a boy! (Although mommy’s instinct at the very beginning of my pregnancy was that you were a girl, and I was right!)

Daddy cut your umbilical cord and then, for the next hour, you laid on my chest and we got to know you a little bit. You were not crying at all, just staring up at me and making sweet little baby sounds. After nine months of wondering what you’d look like, here you were—with dark hair, blue eyes and long, slender fingers and toes! You were absolutely perfect and we couldn’t believe you were all ours.

After our time getting to know each other, the nurses took you to get weighed. Daddy went with you and we soon learned that you weighed 9 pounds, 2 ounces—much bigger than the midwives had estimated! You were a perfectly healthy baby…but you did not enjoy being naked on the scale! You cried a lot until they handed you to daddy and he put you on his bare chest and started talking to you. Recognizing his voice, you instantly stopped crying and stared up at him. You were so alert, so curious as you got to know your daddy, and the world around you.

Today, you are still alert, curious and mesmerized by the sounds of your mommy and daddy’s voices—just as we are mesmerized by you! The day of your birth was the most exciting, most emotional and most powerful day of our lives. It has given me strength many times already in these early days of your life, which have been more difficult, at times, than I could have imagined. Being a mom isn’t easy, I’m realizing, but I’m also learning that it is the best thing I’ll ever do in my life. My heart is filled with so much love, so much pride and so many hopes and dreams for you, my sweet Caroline. I am honored and excited to spend the rest of my life making your life one where all of those hopes and dreams I have for you—plus the ones you create for yourself—come true. I love you.

Love,

Mommy

Bamboola Baby Caroline natural birth morristown hospital new jersey jersey city doula lamaze

Bamboola Baby Caroline natural birth morristown hospital new jersey jersey city doula lamaze

Both images are the property of my client, please do not use without her permission.

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