Birth is one of the most beautifully intense experiences. It doesn’t need to be feared in order to be respected. I would like to share the amazing stories of some of my doula clients and friends. These are their own words and feelings. I hope they inspire you and give you confidence for your own journey to motherhood.
The first story comes from a friend and doula client, Jill. I’d like to invite you to share your own story in the comments section or by emailing me directly.
The Birth Story of Gregory John D., born on July 30, 2014
Written by his mother, Jill D.
During my second pregnancy, I knew that I had complete control of my birthing experience. All decisions for my baby’s birth would be mine to make, from start to finish.
I was determined to have a healthy pregnancy, which would lead to a healthy delivery. My baby made that easy for me, as I experienced very minimal morning sickness and discomforts. I ate healthily with balanced meals and prenatal vitamins, plus an iron supplement. I exercised consistently. In addition to chasing my young toddler around, I ran. I even continued running 0.5-2 miles most days during my third trimester, up until my 8th month! I transitioned to the elliptical and swimming when I couldn’t run. I did squats to prepare for the position I would most want to deliver in: squatting. This would require leg strength. I also found out later on that squatting is better for preparing the pelvic floor than kegels. I was well on my way to a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
I selected a care provider, Dr. Neil Foster, based on the recommendations of several mommy friends who had great experiences with him. These moms were within a broad range from mainstream to very crunchy. I trusted these women and truly believed that Dr. Foster could give me a positive birth experience, too.
>Childbirth Preparation Program<
During my first birthing time, I used the HypnoBirthing program on recommendation from my midwife. I did not find these techniques to be as helpful as I had anticipated. I could float through a rainbow cloud in my mind, but in person, I wasn’t distracted from childbirth.
I bought and started the Hypnobabies program in my second trimester. It practically guaranteed an easy, comfortable birth experience. I listened to the pregnancy affirmations daily and followed the prescribed schedule of reading the materials and listening to audio recordings. I was completely confident that I was creating the birth I desired by immersing myself in this program.
>Hiring My Doula<
I began to think about hiring a doula in the months prior to birth. When we met the woman who would become my doula, Brianna, I just knew that she was the one for me. First, when we met her, she had the right disposition – if that is the way to put it. She has a calming aura about her, yet she is professional and made me feel like she would stick up for me should I ever need her to. Second, she recommended a reading list for me on pregnancy, birth, and beyond that included many books that I agreed with or respected. I knew we were on the same page with our philosophies, and that made me feel even better about hiring her. She was also willing to learn about my Hypnobabies techniques to help me feel as relaxed as I could be.
Late in pregnancy, I began to feel some movements that were, to me, atypical. I felt hits or kicks on my cervix. I found this odd, because this was where my baby’s head was supposed to be sitting. I had a doctor’s appointment at 35.5 weeks. I asked him to tell me how my baby was positioned. He turned on the ultrasound machine. We found feet at my cervix and the head in my upper right pelvis. My baby was breech. I silently panicked. I knew that if I couldn’t turn the baby by delivery, I would need a C-section (if I chose to deliver with my current provider). My doctor mentioned that there were techniques out there to turn the baby, such as in Chinese medicine. (I think he was referring to moxibustion.) On my way out, my doctor’s assistant told me, “Good luck turning that baby!”
At my husband’s suggestion, I wrote to Brianna. I knew that she would reassure me and give me some advice on how to proceed.
I tried everything that I could to turn my child naturally. I crawled around on all fours constantly. I did inversions followed by the breech tilt on my sloped couch. I saw my chiropractor twice per week so she could perform the Webster technique on me. I went to the pool almost every day and turned somersaults. I even did a brief headstand. I put cold packs and peppermint essential oil on my upper belly and played classical music through headphones to my lower belly. I studied images of babies in the optimal position until they were burned in my mind. I downloaded the “Turn Your Breech Baby” track and listened to it daily. I refused to entertain thoughts that I might have a C-section, knowing that the mind is a powerful thing. I even made an appointment with a doctor skilled in breech delivery out of George Washington University in DC. Since this appointment was over our vacation in Rehoboth Beach, DE, I was invested in eliminating the need for this consultation – as was my husband.
I went back to my doctor at 37.5 weeks. My husband promised me that, if I turned the baby, we would go out to a restaurant of my choice. We all sat there nervous yet knowing that I had done everything I could. My doctor asked me if I was optimistic or pessimistic about having turned the baby. I said optimistic, so he pointed the monitor at my lower belly. The moment of truth: I DID IT! We celebrated by emailing our doula, cancelling our consultation, and having dinner at Ford’s Fish Shack.
As I finalized my birth plan, everything was uneventful, aside from one particular item. I wished to have no restrictions on the length of my pregnancy, but my doctor did not want me to go past 41 weeks. At my doula’s suggestion, I requested a biophysical profile should I be pregnant past my guess date. He agreed and extended his timeline for induction to 41+5.
My guess date came and went. I had not told family and friends what this date was, and I’m sure glad I didn’t! I avoided a lot of calls of “Why isn’t the baby here?” from well-meaning people who might have insinuated there was something wrong. Nothing was wrong. My baby came on his own time.
I felt very fatigued beginning around my due date and continuing for a week and a half leading up to labor. I continued to swim about every other day, even up until the day before labor began. I also continued doing inversions and crawling to keep optimal positioning of my baby.
I had my biophysical profile done at 40+4. It revealed that my baby was healthy and could stay put for longer. It also revealed that my child was huge! The ultrasound estimated him at 9.5 lbs., and it showed that his head was large, too. I didn’t think much of this, knowing that my birth experience would completely depend on my mental state at the time and not on baby’s stats.
The night labor started, I was relaxing with my husband, son, and mother (who was in town to care for Simon during my birthing time). We decided to watch a raunchy comedy to make me relax: Clerks II. It was bizarre and funny, and it certainly got my mind off of labor.
After the movie, I felt like my pressure waves were becoming more consistent as opposed to the Braxton Hicks I had felt previously. My mother demanded that Jason and I go upstairs and have sex to help bring on labor. I have to admit, this was a bit strange to hear from the woman who did her best to foil and prevent sexual activity while I was growing up! Yet, I was in a different phase of life and had an entirely different mission, which was to give birth.
Without sharing too much, I did give in to “natural induction” techniques after going upstairs to bed. After this was completed (around midnight on July 30), I tried my best to fall asleep. Simon was already asleep, and I knew I could use the rest, too.
Not long afterwards, I texted Brianna to let her know that things were starting.
I told my mom that things were starting. She was very happy because I would avoid artificial induction. It was an exciting time, but I remembered what Hypnobabies taught me; don’t get excited. Stay calm. This would make sure labor didn’t stall.
I decided to make Simon’s room my cocoon for early labor. My mom got me my blue Camelbak water bottle and some toast with cashew butter. I crawled around and did some squats to help with progress and maintain optimal fetal positioning.
I played the Hypnobabies fear release session for the first time as I moved around and sat on my yoga ball. I deepened my relaxation as I listened to its words. It told me that my higher power was watching over me. I needed to hear that, especially because birth is the closest I believe I will ever feel to God. This was the mortification before the blessing, and my body was made to do it.
After the fear release track, I listened to my deepening track and my “Easy First Stage” track.
During the course of labor at night, my toddler woke up a couple of times and wanted to breastfeed. I was happy to allow him to do so. Once a woman is in labor, nipple stimulation can help strengthen pressure waves and expedite birth. He did nurse during pressure waves. I had hoped to remain silent, but I moaned loudly. My sweet toddler hugged me tight with each pressure wave, knowing I was going through something intense. I will always remember how loving those cuddles were and how he wanted to make sure his mommy was okay.
Brianna arrived at my home around 2:45 a.m. She got settled in as she timed my pressure waves and brushed up on the Hypnobabies birth partner guide, at my request. I was at a point in labor where I could play around with things to see what made me the most comfortable. That is what we did for a few hours. I settled on a certain pattern. Brianna passed her hands over the top of my shoulders while she gave a Hypnobabies cue: release (or relax). She then passed her hands down the middle of my back, to my hips, and she gave a hip squeeze. I also found it helpful to have an ice pack applied to my lower back during pressure waves, which Jason helped with. I continued to take a sip of water after each pressure wave so that I stay strong and avoid an IV.
I got hungry around 5 a.m. Brianna went to my kitchen and cooked me some eggs and toast with cashew butter upon request. I knew that a powerful meal including protein would propel me toward the birth I desired.
I called my doctor’s office after they opened, around 9:15 a.m. This was after I got the urge to throw up, which for me was an indication that labor was making great progress.
I spoke with the receptionist. She was happy for me that labor started on its own. When I mentioned that pressure waves were 4-5 min apart for 45 sec to 1 min, she said, “Oh, you have to go to the hospital NOW. I’ll let Dr. Foster know you’re coming in.”
Jason packed our sedan with everything I needed for birth and left the SUV for my mom and toddler so that she could drive him to the hospital to meet his sibling about 1-2 hours after the birth.
During the car ride to The Birthing Inn, I experienced 3 strong pressure waves.
We entered the facility and completely bypassed triage. I needed no checks; my behavior during pressure waves showed the nurses that I was there to stay.
We went to the room. I directed Brianna to cover the clock with a bedsheet. I knew I was not on an artificial timetable and did not care about the time.
I was assigned Ruth as my nurse after the staff briefly reviewed my birth plan and saw my goal was natural birth. Ruth did everything in her power to support this goal, and she did an amazing job at it.
I changed from sweatpants and a zip up hoodie into just a bathing suit top with no pants. I didn’t care about pants as I was about to give birth.
At my first check, I was 5-6 cm open. I was ecstatic! That was the furthest I got without augmentation when I gave birth to Simon!
I looked forward to laboring in the tub, but I was told I couldn’t go in. Ruth feared that if I did, then I wouldn’t want to get out. The baby would come very soon afterward. (We were not allowed to deliver in tubs at The Birthing Inn.)
I was physically shaking from the surge of hormones and was told by Ruth, very matter of factly, that I will have this baby out soon.
I was given an IV to begin my antibiotics for Group B Strep. When the IV was complete, I was free to move around as I desired. For the most part, I stayed on the bed since that was most comfortable to me in late labor. I lied down on my back with the upper half of the bed at an incline. I sandwiched an ice pack between the bed and my back, which helped tremendously during pressure waves. Brianna and Jason could support me in other ways, such as doing hip squeezes and giving me my water after each pressure wave.
I told Brianna and Jason that I decided while at home that I wanted the drugs. I asked Brianna, “Does that make me a wimp?” She said, “Absolutely not. I’m here to support you in whatever decision you make.” They said, you are doing great; I really don’t think you need them. It wasn’t sugarcoated to make me feel better; it was very matter-of-fact. I signed papers to have an epidural, just in case. Even my nurse, Ruth, said that I was doing great and she thought medicine was unnecessary. The anesthesiologist came in, and I said that I wasn’t sure if I wanted it. She even told me not to get it because I was doing so well! She went to another room to assist another mother.
Ruth checked me and found that I was about 7-8 cm. I could not believe how fast I was progressing. The pressure waves even seemed to decrease in intensity. I said that I would go for it and not get the epidural. Jason told me how proud he was of my decision. When the anesthesiologist returned, she said she was happy that I declined medication because she knew I didn’t need it. Wow!
I continued to use my Hypnobabies cues and techniques. I’d say “peace” repeatedly during exhales of particularly challenging waves. I would go to my special, safe place in my mind. For me, this was Hains Point during cherry blossom season – pink trees as far as the eye could see, and an inviting spot to sit under them if I needed to. I was also able to mentally say “release” – an instant hypnosis cue – and visualize a bright bluish-purple color that to me was anesthesia that I could direct wherever I needed it. Brianna and Jason continued to tell me “release” during waves, as well as “relax” – a cue that deepens hypnosis. I listened to my stage 1 birth guide track and remembered that every 20 minutes seemed like only 5 minutes to me.
Jason kept his gaze fixed on the contraction monitor, a screen that I refused to look at (so that I could mentally stay in my safe place). He could tell from the monitor when I would have my next pressure wave and get ready to perform a hip squeeze to relieve pressure.
Ruth set up a bar on my bed to help with delivery. I decided that I would squat while on the bed to deliver my baby.
At the next check, I was about a 9. For some reason, I stayed around a 9 for an hour. Apparently, it was just one side of my cervix that wasn’t opening, so Ruth had me lie on my side to assist with that part. I pressed up on the bar during waves.
I began to feel an intense urge to push. It felt very similar to needing to move my bowels and not being able to. I held the baby in as much as I could after being told that pushing too early could cause a tear in my cervix.
Ruth checked me every 10 minutes or so. After what seemed like forever, and what definitely seemed like the longest part of the birthing process, Ruth announced that I was complete! I was allowed to squat on the bed and begin to push. The MP3 player switched to the second track on my Hypnobabies birthing guide, which assisted me with hypnosis while pushing.
I was still somewhat fearful that I would tear since my sonogram at 40+4 indicated that I would be delivering a big baby with a big head. I asked my nurse if they had oil for me. They did; they oiled me as I began to push.
I knew I was very close. The team brought over a large, free-standing mirror. I used it to help keep the delivery under my control. My doctor, Dr. Foster, was assisting another patient during the majority of my pushing. He is the only doctor in his practice, so another doctor, Dr. Jeffrey Coker (a female), sat at the edge of the bed ready to assist me. She sat next to a table of instruments covered with a blue tarp. I knew I would only need this in an emergency, so I never even thought about it.
It didn’t take long before I exclaimed that I felt like I had to poop. I assumed this was just from the baby, but it turned out I did have to poop. Oops! I am sure she has seen worse. She said nothing and just wiped it away like it was nothing. That made more room for the baby to descend.
At this point, my water had still not broken. Dr. Coker said that there was a big, bulging bag right at the opening. Because I was 41 1/2 weeks along, she recommended that I break it to check for the presence of meconium. She broke it and there was no meconium. Not long afterward, Dr. Foster came in to receive my baby at delivery. We didn’t know if he would even make it! I was able to see my baby’s head and knew just how close we were.
I pushed powerfully and exhaled a deep, loud, guttural “AAAHHH” (not screaming by any means – just a vocalization to help me stay in control) with each surge.
When my baby crowned, I felt relief. What a shock, as I had been told by so many that this was the “ring of fire”. Hardly! When my child’s head was out, Dr. Foster instructed me not to push. I didn’t; it felt just like the time during labor that I was told to hold the baby in. Soon, my baby’s body slid gently out of the birth canal. I immediately went from a feeling of being stuffed with poop to taking the largest “poop” ever and feeling more empty than I ever have.
My baby was born! I did it! I looked down and saw a huge, beautiful child. What a surprise; it was a little BOY! He laid on a blue tarp for a short while. Dr. Foster immediately put a clamp on the cord, which shocked me. I said, oh please, take it off! I begged him. I had asked for delayed cord clamping and was surprised that this didn’t happen. Luckily, they took some scissors from under that tarp and removed the clamp. They waited some minutes before clamping it again. Jason cut the cord.
Our sweet newborn was placed on my chest and covered with a special blanket I brought from home: a very soft, white baby blanket with a yellow duck embroidered on it. He cried, I cried, Jason cried and we all bonded as we met for the very first time.
As Dr. Foster did his final check before he waited for the placenta to come out, he said that everything looked great. I was intact! All of my birthing goals had been met: a healthy baby, a natural labor, and an intact perineum. The staff praised me on what a great job I did and how I was so in control. It seemed like I took an ordinary event (to them) and made it into an extraordinary feat that they were privileged to watch.
We announced that his name was Gregory John. Both names come from saints: Saint Gregory the Great and Saint John the Apostle. Both names also have special family connections. Gregory would have been my name if I were a boy, so in that sense, he is named for me. John is the name of Jason’s grandfather who we all love and admire. Our son would have two strong names from both sides of the family to give him a great start in life.
I got the full hour-plus of skin-to-skin that I desired. Gregory cuddled and nursed like a pro on both sides. He was then taken to the scale. Our sweet boy weighed in at a healthy 8 lbs, 13 oz. He got to be held by Jason and met Simon, too.
That moment of birth was everything of life to me: strength and power, coupled with love and tenderness. My heart and soul were born to the outside of my body once again.
>The Next Day<
The day after Gregory’s birth, my doctor visited with me in my recovery room. He saw Gregory again and also met my mother for the first time. He told her, “Your daughter is an amazing woman.” He then proceeded to say probably the nicest things that anyone has ever said about me, and words that I can call on for strength any time I ever feel low. He said that he has been doing this for 30 years, and what I did was something special. The way I kept control while working with my team was spectacular. He said that I was the strongest person in the room. He even said that if this country breaks out into a war, he is going to come over my house while I help resolve whatever is going on!
My doctor instructed me not to tell too many people about my birth, because it’s a rare person who can do what I did – birth a huge baby with a huge head with such grace and control and without tearing. I will respectfully disagree and am happy to share this story. It shows that the birth experience I had was no accident; it was the result of careful planning over many months, and it was the result of collaboration with my husband, doula, chiropractor, nurse, doctor, and even more people. The majority of women can plan for and achieve their ideal birth, and I hope that this serves as inspiration for even just one woman.