Intentions & Acknowledgements
I am really appreciative of Carol & Shar @midwiferycare_nyc, Megan @brooklyndoula, and @borissuchkov for being so supportive during the prenatal, birth and postpartum period. I also read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, which was really helpful in navigating what birth was going to be like. The birthing classes I took with @healthystart brooklyn & @birthdaypresence also influenced my thinking about the birth. My intention was to try and have an unmedicated birth, and deciding on working with a doula and a midwife practice was probably the best decision I made during the pregnancy, supporting my effort to have a birth that was empowering and respectful of Beatrice and me.
I also decided and am grateful for the homebirth experience, which is something Boris and I decided to try to do after learning more about the restrictions at the hospital such as freedom of movement and birthing positions, talking to various mothers, and feeling that for met a midwife-based model would provide a better fit. The nice thing about the homebirth and what really helped with the decision making was that at any time if there appeared to be complications in the birth, we had a back-up hospital in mind, which I wish there was a better integration like that between various care models.
Labor started for me around noon on Tuesday December 19th. I remember because it was on the day of a holiday party at work. I remember not knowing if it was a good idea to attend the party or not, I decided to attend but I only stayed a few hours, because the contractions while not unbearable where getting more difficult to deal with. They felt like strong cramps around my mid-section. I spoke with my midwives Shar and Carol and Megan and they told me I should try and rest, because the contractions were no yet strong yet. It was ended up being great advice because active labor, which would be later in the process is very physically and emotionally demanding so you need as much energy as you can.
…When I got home, I started monitoring my contractions – they were every 30 minutes or so and they lasted less than a minute each time. I knew that by the time they were every 5 minutes or so and lasted for 1 minute for over an hour, that’s when I knew to call Shar/Carol and Megan to head over. I was able to try and get rest overnight and the next morning, Wednesday 12/20, is when the contractions started coming every 5 minutes, lasting 1 minute for an hour. Megan came at 10:30am and Carol came shortly after. This was when my active labor started.
I am so grateful for Megan and Carol, and especially Megan during my active labor phase because every time a contraction came, Megan helped me physically and mentally deal with it. Boris was also really helpful because he was empathetic, gave me food, and made sure the birth tub was properly outfitted. Since active labor is physically demanding, everyone made sure I was eating, going to the bathroom, and it was a mix of going to the birthing tub to try to reduce the intense sensations but also standing, hip circles, walking to make sure labor was progressing, and sitting on the toilet to also deal with the contractions. For me it was a balance of trying to not expend too much energy but also moving around in order to keep things moving and not have labor stall. I definitely leaned on Megan and Carol to coach me in these difficult moments. Active labor was definitely intense and draining. A lot of low and loud moaning sounds in order to breath and work through the contractions.
Around 3pm in the afternoon, things started getting and more intense and I didn’t know it at the time but I was going through “transition” which is when active labor starts getting closer to the “pushing” stage of the birth. For me this felt like the contractions kicked up a bunch of notches and they were getting more and more unbearable. I was getting tired/exhausted and cranky and Carol and Megan brought up the idea of “breaking my waters,” meaning rupturing the membranes which was holding amniotic fluid. The fluid was acting as a buffer between Beatrice and my birth canal, which was making the contractions less intense (although they seemed like crazy intense already!), but also was increasing the chance of labor taking longer. Carol and Megan said it was up to me whether I would want my membrane to be ruptured, and I thought about it, discussed a little of it with Boris, and Megan had good advice on how it would change things up probably intensify the contractions and make labor feel more intense, but that maybe it might be nice for a change. I was a little afraid of more intensity but at that point I thought a change could be a good thing, and I went for it.
Once my membranes were ruptured the contractions were SUPER intense, I was having trouble managing them so I kept asking, “When will I need to push?,” and both Carol and Megan said I would know when I would need to push, as I would feel strong rectal pressure. I tried to stay calm and know that pushing would happen when it would happen, although I hoped that pushing would happen sooner rather than later because I was getting really tired. At around 6pm, I started getting super intense rectal pressure so I knew I needed to push. Carol and Megan got me on the birthing stool in Boris and my bedroom. Boris gets squeamish at the sight of potential blood so he just made sure his nervousness didn’t negatively affect the labor, so he stayed in the living room. Every time the urge to push happened it was like this very strong urge like trying to poop but instead of pooping, I was trying to expel Beatrice out. Pushing is really tiring, so it’s important to focus your breath. Low sounds are better than high-pitched sounds when breathing. Carol helped me tap into much deeper breathing not from my chest (shallow breathing) but from my diaphram. At that point, Lindsey, the midwife assistant was also helping. Carol was waiting to catch Beatrice as soon as she was going to come up, and monitoring the pushing. Lindsey was fanning me and giving me coconut water because I was sweaty and super tired/hot. Megan was supporting me from the back so that I would have something to push against when I was bearing down.
*Crowning/Ring of Fire*
Megan suggested I put my hand down to feel Beatrice’s head. Once I put my hand down, I could focus my effort on her head coming out and it would inch forward but then go back again, so it was like two steps forward one step back. But it was physically and emotionally encouraging because at least I could physically feel that Beatrice was coming out. Megan, Carol and Lindsey reminded me that progress was being made and were cheering me on, which was just what I needed, as I was super tired at that point. As Beatrice’s head come through, there was a very intense pain, dubbed the “ring of fire,” because of the burning sensation. The burning sensation is really tough to deal with but I was also cognizent and reminded that Beatrice was almost there! I kept pushing and each time I pushed I made a little more progress.
Then, finally, Beatrice’s head came through and then the rest of her body slipped out much more easily, like a slippery fish. Blomp blomp bloop. Carol caught Beatrice (at that point we didn’t know if Beatrice was going to be a girl or boy, so that’s when Carol said “it’s a girl!”), and I heard her first baby cry, such a strong cry! Carol put Beatrice on my chest and I started weeping out of happiness, joy, exhaustion, and an amazing sense of all-enveloping love. Boris joined shortly thereafter and I remember that moment the most – of Beatrice on my chest, of feeling elated that she existed in the world and that I could hold her and we could all be together. It was an incredible process and the first stage of my becoming Beatrice’s mom.
I am so grateful for Megan, Carol & Shar, Lindsey, Boris and everyone who supported us for Beatrice’s birth. It was an incredible experience and I feel very happy thinking about it. I am excited to share this story with Beatrice when she is older 🙂