There are things that you say out loud. And there are things that are subtly engraved in your subconscious. During my pregnancy, my doctor and my doula warned me that a strict birth plan would only lead to disappointment. Without hesitation, I told them that I knew that I could not control everything and that I was open to take different routes if necessary. I realize now that, unintentionally, I was not as honest as I wanted them to believe.
The way this adventure started threw me a little bit off guard. According to my prenatal classes, water generally doesn't break until women are well into labor. So when it happened while I was sleeping, at 3am, the first thing that came to my mind was that I finally became one of those incontinent pregnant women. I stood up half sleeping, liquid leaking all over my legs, while my dog was going crazy licking all the fluid he could get! To add to the confusion, I had zero contractions.
Once I realized that the baby was indeed coming, I called the maternity ward and my doula. They both recommended us to gather our stuff and make our way to the hospital. As we waited for our friend to arrive with his car, I said goodbye to the early labor phase I was planning to do in the comfort of my own home. We arrived at the hospital at about 4am. I only had a few very weak contractions.
As we settled in our room, my contractions intensified drastically. In less than an hour, I had 60 seconds contractions approximately 3 minutes apart and was 2 centimeters dilated. For 6 hours, determined to have a natural childbirth, I went through a whirlwind of comfort techniques: warm baths, breathing exercises, vocalizations, visualizations, etc. When everything failed, I only found a bit of comfort on the birth ball while Dan was doing pressure points on my back.
At 11am, a nurse gave me an exam. After all that pain, I was more than ready for some positive feedback. However, she told me that I was still at 2 centimeters. When she left, I went through some sort of a nervous breakdown. I was soaked wet on the birth ball, shaking, weak from vomiting, and while I was having one strong contraction, I felt like I was going to pass out.
At that point, it was clear that my body could not take it anymore but I still had to deal with some conflicting emotions. I felt like a total failure. I was going to be one of those women who are bitter about their childbirth experience. I could not look at Dan in the eyes and I didn't want to talk to my doula. I could not accept the pain anymore, I was fighting it pointlessly. I asked for an epidural at 11:30am and fell asleep as soon as the pain stopped.
When I woke up at 1pm, I had a discussion with my doula. Slowly, she convinced me that I took the right decision. Each woman and each labor is unique. I was well informed, tried many things and finally opted for an epidural. It was now time to embrace my decision and move on. I was 5 centimeters dilated.
At 3pm, I had another exam. Even with regular contractions, nothing had changed. The nurse suggested mini-drops of oxytocin but didn't put any pressure on me. She was well aware that I was still mourning my natural childbirth. I asked for an extra 30 minutes. When she came back half an hour later, she looked at me with a big smile. Il est temps de pousser! (It is time to push!). I was at 10 centimeters. That nurse is now convinced that she has special dilatation power!
To my great surprise, even with the epidural, I was still able to move my legs normally, lift my hips and feel the contractions as they arrived. My obstetrician suggested that I try a birthing stool. As I looked around me, I realized that I was not simply a woman getting ready to push out a baby by herself. I was part of a “team” and we each had specific tasks. Dan was supporting me emotionally, my doula was providing psychological guidance and the medical team was coaching me on physical aspects. Suddenly, I felt an urge to push.
Pushing the baby was the most surreal experience I have ever lived. The guilt from the epidural was gone, I felt strong, powerful and in control of what I was doing. I was so focused that at one point people got worried. Dan told me that I looked like if I was in a trance. I kept my eyes shut during the entire time and instinctively use ujjayi breathing between each contraction. I was slowly moving my head from side to side and was peacefully smiling. When it was time to push, I would arch my back, slightly lift my hips and bring all my attention to the feeling in my pelvic area. I pushed on the birthing stool during more than 1 hour. My “team” cheering up for me the entire time.
Alice was born at 5:20pm. Her eyes were wide open.
Giving birth to Alice was the most extraordinary moment of my life. Her birth didn't go according to plan but I would not change any aspects of it. I didn't become one of those women who are bitter about their childbirth experience. On the contrary, I came out of that adventure stronger and with a new level of self-respect that, hopefully, will guide me through motherhood.