Baby Arabella decided to make her appearance on July 18, 2017. It was nothing like how I imagined. Overall, I had a very positive birth experience, which in large I attributed to having a Doula and a supportive spouse.
No words could describe what I felt the moment Arabella was placed on my chest. It was surreal. Ten months of carrying this living being inside me and when I finally met her eye to eye, I was speechless. However, I wasn’t overwhelmed with joy and love for her. She looked at me in the eyes, I just remembered being exhausted after 40 hours of labor and my mind drew blank. To be honest, I have yet to embrace motherhood, there’s so much to learn and nothing out there really prepared me for what happens after her birth. More of that in another post.
During my pregnancy, I’ve heard a lot of horror stories from other moms and just like every first-time parent, I was anxious. I’m not the kind of person who leaves things to chances, but this birth experience taught me that there are often things completely beyond my control. The best I could do is to educate myself on the risks involved and take measures to minimize them. I also learned to surround myself with empowering messages. I turned away from conversations about things that went wrong at other births. I keep reminding myself that every birth experience is unique. In hindsight, having a positive mindset and trusting my own instinct were essential in ensuring a smooth labor. My doula also helped coach, inform and encourage me to stay strong. She engaged and exercised my rights as a patient with my gynecologist. I really felt empowered about giving birth.
On Sunday afternoon of July 16th, my water broke. My due date was July 20th and we’ve been patiently waiting for the big day. Although the third trimester was getting pretty uncomfortable for me, I was thoroughly enjoying my last few days of “freedom”. I tell myself, Arabella would come on her own schedule.
A quick phone call to the hospital, I was told to wait at home for the contraction to start. I had no idea how quickly this process would start, so I ate and showered to get myself ready. Then it was pretty much a waiting game. I started to feel period cramps in the evening and decided to sleep through it. It was a sleepless night because I was counting baby’s movements every hour. Next morning, I saw blood and called the hospital again. My gynecologist answered my call and she told me to come in immediately since it’s been 14 hours after my water broke and she was concerned about possible infections to the baby.
I hesitated. I wanted a natural birth experience with minimal medical interference. From my own research and conversations with my doula, I knew exactly what it meant if I were to get admitted into the hospital now. My doctor would get me started on Pitocin in order to speed up the contraction process and that goes against my whole natural birth preference. Also from my own research, I know Infections within 24 hours of my water breaking is not statistically significant, however, I weighted my options and decided not to take the chance.
Once we arrived at the hospital, we were admitted. I changed into the hospital johnny and the nurse strapped the belts around my waist to monitor the baby’s heart beat and track my contractions. My doula already explained this to me, so I handled the whole process with composure. It felt just like a business that had to be taken care of. I did not panic and I was not nervous. For some reason, I believed that the higher power would look after me and little Arabella. She’s been so good to me throughout the pregnancy, I trusted that she’d cooperate and all I needed to do was to gather up my strength and maintain my stamina.
My contraction process stopped completely after my doctor gave me a strict deadline. I had about 5 hours to start the contraction on my own before she’d get me started on the drugs. I fought against it. My Douala told me that it was my legal right in the United States to decide what I want my doctor to do with my body. It was such an empowering statement. I felt strong, in control, and completely calm. I fought to give my body another 12 hours.
My doula was right. Hospital really isn’t the best place for laboring. Subconsciously, I felt like I was running against an invisible clock. I made absolutely no progress after my doctor did the vaginal exam. After 12 hours, I decided to get help from modern medical science. My doctor did a membrane scrape and I was put on Pitocin right after.
I don’t know if the extra 12 hours helped start the contractions faster, I was very sensitive to the drug. My contractions started fifteen minutes after Pitocin was administered. I wanted minimal dosage, so I was fortunate enough that the doctor was happy with my progress and they did not increase the dosage after half a hour. Again, I was very clear when I communicated my wish to my doctor and she respected that. I did not want to leave my body at someone else’s discretion and I gave my own body the best chance it could have.
A couple of hours later, the contractions became shorter and more intense. I was no longer smiling. I called my doula and she came just when the pain started getting unbearable. My husband held my hand as I concentrated hard to visualize the whole laboring process as a flower blossoming in my mind. I kept on telling myself that the pain was not going to hurt me, that it was a natural process to bring this beautiful being into the world like a flower. As more Pitocin were injected into my body, contractions came in more frequently and a lot more intensely. My doula started massaging my lower back just when the contraction came in, it helped ease the pain right away. My doula then taught my husband how to do it. It felt great to work as a team with your spouse through this labor intensive process and to know you were not alone.
A few hours in, I could feel the contraction coming in even more intensely at even shorter intervals. My doula also noticed from the chart that I had a few clustered contractions. Instead of coming in like waves, it felt like minor period cramp at the start and then gradually getting more intense until it was painful for about 60 seconds; I was in constant pain. My body went into survival mode and I could not breath. My husband coached me through breathing with my doula’s assistance. Once again, it was so empowering to find strength through my husband’s gaze.
My doula had 16 years of birth experience, so she suspected that my child’s position was not optimal. She got me started on some pelvis adjusting movements, they were EXTREMELY painful. I felt like my bones were breaking. After 7 hours, I couldn’t go through any more contractions. I decided to get on epidural.
My entire body was shivering and my husband was told to leave the room. Doula requested to stay and it was granted. She held my hand to steady my pose while I was getting my epidural. My contraction was coming in every minute or perhaps less, her calm presence really helped me go through those last few contractions before the epidural kicked in.
After 35 hours, I finally got a break and rested for couple of hours. My doula made sure that I was in a good resting position and put a peanut ball between my legs to help move the contraction along even when I was sleeping. Around 3:30am, a doctor came in for my third vaginal exam and told me that I was ready to deliver a baby. At this point, I was starving, thirsty, and had a total 4 hours of broken sleep. Once more, my doula came to the rescue when it was delivery time. She helped get me into position and taught me how to push. She gave me updates all the time on how things were going. I was exhausted beyond words, but after hearing that the baby’s head was coming out, I summoned the last strength I had and pushed the baby out in 15 minutes，
With a loud cry, Arabella made her debut to the world on July 18th at 4:28am, she weighed 6 pound and 12 oz and as a few of my friends pointed out, she has really long limbs and digits. I don’t know if this means she will be a piano player or a gymnastic. Whatever she decides to do in life, my role is to support her unconditionally and provide a safe and nurturing environment for her. This is a promise I’ve made for her and a commitment for myself.
Even though I didn’t end up having a completely natural birth, I was in control and I felt empowered to make decisions on what to do with my own body. I’ve come to appreciate my own body and my spouse so much more after this delivery. I’d highly recommend having a doula by your side for your delivery. If anyone is interested, my doula’s website is http://www.enteradoula.com/, I’m not getting paid any commission to promote her service, but being one of the 10% women who broke their water before contraction and I still managed to have a great delivery experience, she helped make that possible.