After giving birth to my daughter two years ago, I wrote down my birth story. That essay ended up being nine pages long. I will spare you all the details, but give you the highlights that I feel are important to share with other moms, moms to be and the world, really. I believe we are all part of the birth experience, from mother to baby, father, family, birthing team, friends, and those who perform the simple task of driving us to the hospital or check us in to a room. In some way, from pregnancy to beyond, you may or may not play a role in that mothers birth story.
We have a lot of fear in our society around birth. For whatever reason, we have been made to believe that birth is an emergency experience where we need medical attention right away in order to birth our babies. That was not my experience at all. While I chose to give birth in a hospital, my labor and delivery were incredibly beautiful. The hardest part was the transfer to the hospital when I was crawling on my hands and knees waiting for the contractions to pass.
It all began at the Roosevelt in Hollywood, CA. My husband and I were there for a pool party and I was 39 weeks pregnant, feeling great, but I got the suspicion that the baby was going to come that day. Sure enough, around 11pm, the contractions began. What I had not planned for or known about was the fluids and substances that exit your body as you go into labor. I released the mucus plug, literally emptied my intestines, puked periodically, and started to feel this wave of pressure move down my abdomen into my pelvis. My body was in motion and there was nothing I could do to slow it down or speed it up, I just had to ride the wave. Since it was my first birth, I was not fully aware of what was normal and what was not so a part of me wanted to go to the hospital right away. I thought, maybe I am further along than I think, what if we wait too long, something is wrong, the baby is in distress, and all the worries that come your way when you start anything new. My husband held me through each contraction to calm my body and ease my nerves. I sat on a birthing ball as it helped to alleviate pressure in my sacrum and lower back. By 8am, I had made my way into the living room of our apartment and felt one huge contraction that lasted for what felt like a minute. I stood up, started to walk to the bedroom, and my water broke. It was a lot of liquid. I don’t think it’s that way for everyone, so just as a disclaimer, everybody and labor is different. It was time to go to the hospital.
I remember texting with my doula, asking her if she would be able to make it to the hospital. She had a scheduled class at 11am, that ended at 12:15 and she asked if I thought I would still be in labor at that point. I thought to myself, I don’t think so, this baby feels like it is coming now. She was able to get the class covered and met us at the hospital. Luckily, it was a Sunday, so traffic was light, and I didn’t have to worry about being in the car for very long. But once I arrived at UCLA medical center, I was on my hands and knees crawling to labor and delivery. Once I arrived, I was already at 6cm dilated so I didn’t have to wait in triage very long. UCLA is a training hospital, meaning you may get a student observing or actually participating in your visit, so a student was in charge of administering the catheter into my arm. Unfortunately, she wasn’t very skilled in her craft and it took her over 8 tries to get that needle in my arm, at some point needing to switch arms because she had butchered the other one so bad. That was the least of my worries. We finally made it into a room and then, the real work began. My doula coached me through the contractions and my husband held my back, which was my pain management. I sat on the bed, on the toilet, walked around (if I could) and made a lot of sound. The nurses came in periodically to check on us, and at one point one of them said, “oh, she will be a while”, ha! I ignored the comment and continued to do the work. I was mentally prepared for a long labor but the pressure was something primal, beyond my scope of awareness and ability to understand until going through it. At one point, I asked my doula, “there has to be another way, am I doing this wrong?”. She reassured me I was doing it “right” and to keep breathing and getting on top of the contractions. By the third time I asked she told me, “Ali, yes, there is another way that involves medical intervention where they give you the epidural and pitocin is administered, which may or may not cause stress to your baby, and put you at risk for a c-section and tearing. Your intention was to do this naturally. Just say the word and we will bring the doctor.” My doula is so smart, she knew me well. We had a red flag word that meant we were done and could not move forward without medical intervention and I had chosen “red rover” but I was determined not to use that phrase and if there is one quality I inherited from my stubborn grandfather it was the strength to not back down so easily. I dived inside, got very quiet and went into a silent meditation.
During this meditation, I dived my awareness into my root chakra and asked myself, “what am I afraid of?”. At that point I was only 7cm dilated so I hadn’t progressed very far, and they needed to know I was going to continue to move along in this journey in order to keep my plan for a natural birth. I knew, from my work in the subtle body, that the shadow side of the root chakra, located at the pelvic floor, where you give birth to your baby, is fear. So I dived into all of my fears, around my ability to mother, the environment I was in, if my baby would be healthy, how my life would change post labor, and so on and so forth. But my greatest fear was if she was going to be healthy and if she wasn’t, if I was prepared for that journey as a mother. I chose yes. Once I did, my labor progressed. I told myself I could do this and make it through this portal of a transition into the vast world of parenthood. It was a personal journey and inner vortex that brought me to my knees and made me pray for strength by a force much more powerful than anything my mind could grasp. My baby did just as I had envisioned, she slipped and slid right out of my body a few minutes later. The final moments of my labor were the most intense but also the fastest. When she was about half way out a fear inside of me wanted to pull her back in, but during that meditation she had told me she was ready, so I let go and gave the biggest push of my life only to have my daughter land on my chest moments later. A wise woman once told me that being a parent is living in a constant state of ‘letting go’ and it all begins the moment you give birth and cut the umbilical chord. I knew this was my opportunity to let go and allow her to come into the world to greet those who were waiting to meet her. She latched on right away and we were all together. It was heaven and I can’t remember the moment without tears filling my eyes. We were in the hospital for less than 24 hours and even though there were some uncomfortable moments and procedures I wished she didn’t have to do, I was grateful to be in a safe place and know that my baby girl was healthy. My husband was amazing through it all and stood by her side for every breath of that journey. We were home, in best resting, the very next day and I had a chance to process that transformative experience.
After going through the process of labor and delivery, I now understand why we need 9 months to grow a baby and why, many of us, need to go through that process of birthing our babies in order to rebirth ourselves as mothers. Motherhood is a vast journey with so many ups and downs and knowing that this too shall pass and that you got this were two vital lessons I learned through my journey. I don’t know if I ever had such a strong belief in myself to make it through hard, really hard, times until after that experience. I am forever grateful to my husband, my doula, the staff at UCLA, the amenities we enjoyed and service we received. I wouldn’t change anything about my experience and now that I am pregnant with baby #2, I am asking myself how I want to birth my baby. I have thought about having a home birth which may or may not be an option for us but after having this experience in a hospital and knowing that I have a choice no matter what environment I am in, empowers me in every way.
I wish you all the best on your journey into labor and delivery and know that I am here for you, as a woman and mother, to support you in any way I can. It takes a village and it is so important to ask for the support you need to move through this transition with equanimity and grace. You got this.
Love to all beings everywhere. Thank you for reading my story.