This birth story, as most are, is a love story mixed with a war story. It was a battle that was hard fought, emotional and beautiful.
I knew this time around, after many conversations with other moms, I wanted to share – in real time – what I was going through. I wanted to show – as best I could – what it was really like to go through a contraction without the drama of the hospital. I feel like my experience is so rare – a peaceful, unmedicated, birth center birth – that I wanted to share how beautiful and supportive it was. I decided to share on Snapchat (van_fernan) but felt a little embarrassed when I started telling everyone I was going in to labor on Monday June 27th, only to find it was a false alarm – ahhh well! It happens.
On July 2nd, a sleepy Saturday morning, I woke up and started waddling around the house, getting breakfast ready for everyone. When I finally sat down to eat MY breakfast, I felt a gush. It wasn’t a lot, but it was definitely not pee and it felt like my water had broken. Still no contractions, but constant cramping in my lower back.
After going to the bathroom and seeing a lot of fluid and my mucus plug I suspected that today might be the day! But I was cautious in my suspicion because of the previous false alarm. We were planning to head out to the beach that day to enjoy the holiday weekend a bit, but after more gushes and a few contractions starting up I told my husband: “I don’t think we are going to the beach today!”
With my second and third births, once I started getting strong contractions it was not very long before I met my baby! Just four hours with my second and just 45 minutes with my third. So I was a little anxious. I knew the strong contractions hadn’t hit yet, but once they did, I didn’t want to be too far from the birthing center.
My dad came over to take the kiddos and Fernando and I headed over to the birthing center around 11:30am. When she checked me, I was only about 3cm and not very effaced. She told us to walk around the mall, get a good lunch in my belly and come back at 3pm. So we decided to make it a date! It was SO funny to be walking around the mall – in early stages of labor – breathing through contractions while eating my Thai Chicken Lettuce Wrap on the Cheesecake Factory patio. This one lady approached me at H&M (after a fashion emergency forced us to grab a new pair of shorts for Fernando) and said, “You look like you’re about to pop!” and I replied, “That’s because I am! I’m in labor right now.” Needless to say she was quite surprised.
Finally we got back to the birthing center and I got checked again, 4cm only and contractions were still at about a 5 pain-wise. I tried using the breast pump for a bit, but it didn’t help much and hurt like crazy so I decided to take a nap instead. During that time as I laid in silence (my mom, sister, Fernando and the birth photographer Bianca, were all chatting quietly in the next room) the contractions started getting stronger and I started to feel afraid. I started to remember the pain that lay ahead of me. I started to wonder if this time I would be able to handle it. I wondered if this time would end in the same happy, healthy delivery as the previous three had. It shook me.
My sister came in after a while and having her and the rest of my family helped to distract me but as I sat up and started chatting with everyone the contractions stopped again. Not being in control of the process is probably my LEAST favorite part of natural childbirth (that and the pain).
Finally I got up and decided to walk around the birthing center grounds. I needed to get outside, it was a hot but beautiful day and the birthing center is covered in large, lush tropical trees. I walked with Fernando, praying and clearing my head. I confessed to him my fears and felt a renewed sense of strength as he reassured me that HE believed in me and that God would be with me as well.
This time the contractions finally kicked in and picked up. It was about 5pm. My mother in law, sister in law, both sisters, mom and Fernando were all there – everyone chatting and I enjoyed the company. I would retreat to a quiet corner of the room to breathe through a contraction and then things got stronger.
I retreated to the birth room, leaning over a birthing ball and moaning through each contraction. It was my way of working through the pain. Every wave felt more powerful than the last but at least I could feel her moving down, I could feel my body opening up – it was painful, but I focused on what that pain MEANT. It meant she was getting closer to me.
Through it all I just kept thinking of that moment when her slippery, chubby, soft sweet body would be in arms. It was all that got me through.
After one particularly body rocking contraction I told my midwife to fill up the tub. It was getting close, I could feel it! But after laboring all day, starting at 8am, by this time I was *exhausted*. I was worried I just wouldn’t have what it took to push her out at the end. I got in the tub and as soon as I did it all came back. All the memories of my previous three (who had also been water births) the sensation of pushing the pain and the joy. Here we go – I thought – here we go.
It is hard to describe the last few contractions before pushing. Mentally I go to another place. Nothing else exists, just the job ahead of me, enduring the pain and seeing my baby. My body was SO tired I asked Fernando to hold my head up because it felt so heavy and like too much work to even hold my head up during a contraction. Finally it came, the pushing – I tried not to push too much – I didn’t want to tear, but the sensation was there, she was coming out. After that I had to change positions in the tub, leaning forward and on my knees, my hands gripped the handle at the front of the tub, I closed my eyes as every muscle in my body prepared to push. I could feel her head moving down, I didn’t know how close she was, but I knew she was close. Then I heard my midwife say “the head is out.” I opened my eyes and put my hand down to feel. The contraction was still going and with her being so close I decided to give it one more good push – I wanted her in my arms. We were so close, why wait for another contraction?
I gave it everything I had left, screaming from deep within and out she came.
I burst into tears as I held her in my arms, her little cry was the best sound in the world. She was SO beautiful and chubby and perfect. Sitting there, soaking in the moment, feeling the relief, realizing that I DID IT. I know this was my fourth time around and I should have been the most confident, but I struggled with so much fear this time and the relief and joy of having her in my arms was powerful.
These past three days with her have been amazing. Peaceful, restful, beautiful. She is a sweet baby who LOVES to be cuddled, kissed, talked to and held. Here siblings are in love with her – we all are. It was a birth I could not have predicted, but absolutely perfect and I am thankful for the gift to have been able to bring her into this world, strong and healthy and surrounded by love and family.
(All pictures captured by my amazing birth photographer Bianca Valentim)