Today marks the 8th anniversary of my daughter's birth. It's not very often that I share my personal birth choices, but today I want to share the story of my daughter's birth to highlight the importance of physical and emotional support, the kind of support you receive when you have a doula on your birth team. Emotions and thoughts can affect the birth process. Birth support does indeed make a difference.
I watched my due date come and go. Then another week passed. Every day, my mother would ask me, "Do you think the baby will come today?" I think she could sense how much that question annoyed me so, she stopped asking. I was in Carolina July heat, 900 months pregnant, and done. My parents had been very supportive throughout my pregnancy, but they were a little freaked out by my decision to have an out-of-hospital birth. In spite of their trepidation, they kindly agreed to babysit my other two kids, ages 4 and 1, at my house while I delivered at their house, just over the South Carolina state line.
When I finally started contracting at almost 42 weeks, I felt relieved. I called my parents to tell them that they should plan on babysitting later that day. My father answered the phone and said that since I didn't "look like [I] was close to having the baby,” they decided to take a “little road trip” to Florida. They were 30 miles from the Florida border! They were attempting to sell some real estate in Florida and drove down to check on the property. My feelings of relief and excitement were suddenly replaced with disappointment, anger, frustration and panic. My husband and I had to find someone else to babysit our kids whom we had never left before. Stressed, my contractions stopped. I was hopeful that I could hold out until my parents returned from Florida. That was, until about 11:00 that night when I suddenly felt a hard contraction. It was so hard and lasted so long that I couldn’t move. Fortunately, the cordless phone was within reach and I was able to call my midwife. She told me that for only the 2nd time in her 16 years of practice, she had 2 moms in labor at the same time and she didn’t know which one of us needed her first. Again, that sense of abandonment started to rise up in me. She assured me that either she or her partner would be there, just keep her posted. My older children were sleeping so my husband and I were able to sneak out when the last-minute babysitter arrived.
We called my midwife around 4AM. My contractions were super hard but still 5 minutes apart. She told me that she had just delivered the other baby and would be by my side in about 45 minutes. When I saw my midwife, I immediately felt relief. My contractions were so painful; I didn’t know what to do. I would describe them as sharp rather than hard, as if someone was shoving a knife up my rectum. My midwife asked me to labor on the toilet. I tried and quickly decided I didn’t like it. We tried a birthing stool, on the floor, in the tub, on the bed, on a mattress, on a chair, on top of my husband, on a birthing ball. Every contraction invoked the fight or flight response in me, and I definitely wanted to flee. My midwife remained by my side and continued to calmly offer suggestions. I didn't feel abandoned!
I ended up laboring in the garden tub with the jets running. I had been awake all night enduring powerful contractions. I had reached a point of exhaustion and didn't want to be there any longer. I wanted to be home with my babies who were awake and crying for their mother. At one point, I turned the jets off, told my midwife that I just couldn’t do it anymore, and decided I was going to drown myself. Then I slowly slid my head under water. She pulled my head out of the water, propped it up on a towel, and had her assistant give me a snack and some water. I made it through another contraction and then my midwife began talking to me in a nurturing voice. She asked me what I was feeling (emotionally). Of course, I denied anything was wrong, but inside all of the feelings of abandonment started coming up. I thought about all the times I needed people and they weren't there. I thought about the saddest times in my life, when I was away at school as a teen and didn't have my parents. I remembered past traumas that no one saved me from. I even thought about the time when I fell off my bike in the 3rd grade and no one was around to help me. All of the past hurts and times I felt like I had to do hard things alone. Everything came to the surface, including things I hadn't thought about in years! My midwife told me to release those feelings, to let go of every emotion I was holding onto and suppressing. Holding on to those feelings was preventing me from opening for my baby! My sadness went away, and I noticed a beautiful sunrise through the blinds.
My midwife told me she wanted to check my cervix. I agreed. As soon as she stuck her hand in the water, I screamed. She reached in further and said the head was out. She said she wanted me to push the baby out with the next contraction. When the next contraction came I screamed for 9-1-1, vodka, Cognac, and then my voice turned into that of a demon as I yelled, “GET OUT OF ME!” With that, my baby was born. It had been an incredibly emotional journey for me, but thanks to the support I received from my midwife, I didn't have to walk that journey alone. I didn't need the physical support or the words of encouragement. What I needed was for someone to hold space for me, to make it safe for me to feel the big emotions, to show up for me and not abandon me. That's what professional birth support can do!
Living the JACK'd Life
I am a certified birth doula (BAI) in Charlotte, NC . I provide information and support to pregnant individuals and couples so they can have satisfying and empowering births. I am a married mother of 4 trying to navigate life, unafraid of sharing my truly JACK'd up missteps.