As a doula I’ve observed countless births and had the opportunity to learn much about the birth process and become experienced with labor comfort techniques.
I am a single mother by choice – meaning I used a sperm donor to conceive. So I asked my mother and sister, who’ve both taken doula training, to be at my side as my coaches during my birth.
I was 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant, and had been experiencing uncomfortable contractions on and off since about 34 weeks.
I decided to go to my parent’s house for dinner on Saturday night to get my mind off of being majorly pregnant with no end in sight. My contractions (that had been my constant companion for so many weeks) had dissipated. I was at peace with the idea that I’d be pregnant for a few more days at least.
After dinner I tried to get comfortable to watch a movie.
But after a few minutes I decided to return home and try to sleep. I was so sore and uncomfortable, but chalked it up to being majorly pregnant. I was able to sleep for a few hours but was restless and uncomfortable. Around 1 am, I had the thought that the back pain I was experiencing could actually be real labor, since contractions had never prevented me from sleeping before. I really was more restless than uncomfortable, so I went back to sleep.
At 5 am, I was no longer able to sleep through what had now become contractions.
I texted my sister (who lived 5 hours away) that I believed I was really in labor; she should get packed up and head my way soon. I was feeling so excited, and still not in any pain, so I made myself a high-protein breakfast for the long day ahead of me. Then I cleaned my kitchen, took a shower and braided my hair for birth pictures and attended to some other household chores. By then my sister called saying she was loaded and ready whenever I felt she was needed.
I told her my contractions had spaced out after my shower and that I was sure it would be a very long day.
I was becoming tearful and anxious thinking about my impending delivery and motherhood. So I decided to take a step back from chores and focus on preparing myself mentally. I dimmed the lights, applied some essential oils, and sat on my birth ball while I listened to my Hypnobabies fear-release CD.
I shut out the world as I entered hypnosis but was faintly aware that my contractions were picking up again.
After my fear-release, I switched to a lighter stage of hypnosis. I could be present in the moment while still maintaining my relaxation and freedom from anxiety. I attached a TENS device to help with my low back pain, then began to use some other techniques to bring my baby into a better position for birth.
By 9 am I was ready to have someone with me.
I called my mom to come pick me up so we could go walk at the mall together. I called my sister to give her an update. When she heard how I was now breathing through contractions she decided she needed to get on the road. Between 9 and 11 am I walked at the mall. I would pause and dance during each contraction, which went from 4 minutes apart to 2 minutes.
I still did not feel I was in pain; just a great deal of discomfort in my back.
My midwife, who I had been in contact with all morning, wanted me to go to the hospital since my contractions were now so close together. When I arrived at the hospital I was checked by a resident who said I was already 8 centimeters dilated and asked if I would like my epidural.
I told him no, the pain was very tolerable and I wanted a natural birth.
He openly rolled his eyes at me and muttered something about how lucky he was to be stuck with a crunchy mom. I quickly told him that I would not be needing his services and that my midwife should be arriving soon to handle my delivery.
About 1 pm I felt my contractions gaining intensity and I knew I was in transition.
My nurse was amazing and worked around me as I labored. She went so far as to get on all fours so she could get heart tones without me laying in bed. My birth photographer arrived still in her heels and skirt from church and began to shoot as my mom and I worked through each contraction.
I was most comfortable kneeling over my birth ball, gently swaying my hips while I sang or moaned in low tones and envisioning my baby descending.
My midwife Amy and my mom were such an encouragement to me as I repeatedly told them, “I’m done, I want this baby here.” Each contraction felt as though my back were being crushed by a truck. Because of the pressure I was feeling, I refused to do anything but kneel.
Amy suggested I try the shower.
For an hour I relaxed while the warm water rushed over my back and my team continued to encourage me. I knew I was waiting for my sister to arrive, and every noise made me turn – hoping it was her. Finally, I agreed to return to the bed so Amy could check me.
I was now 9 cm and I felt slightly crestfallen that I had only progressed 1 cm in the past 3 hours.
Amy suggested I lay on my side and try to sleep between contractions. I was able to get some rest but then would wake during the greatest intensity of a contraction.
This was the darkest hour for me.
I felt completely out of control of my body and exhausted. However, fear never entered my mind because I still believed I could have the natural birth I dreamed of.
My sister finally arrived and I broke down in tears of relief and exhaustion.
She came to my side and held my hand. I knew that the team was all there. This baby could be born now. Almost instantly I began to feel that I could push if I wanted to. However, I waited another 10 minutes until I could no longer resist the urge.
Pushing was my favorite part of labor.
I felt I was in control again and my pain was totally gone. I was able to return to my state of hypnosis and I felt so relaxed and happy and fearless. I would push un-coached only long enough to take away the intense urge and then I would relax back into my bed and either sleep or interact with those around me.
I even remember laughing at a joke Amy made and teasing her that I thought this might be false labor and I could go home.
At 4:22 pm, thirty minutes after I first felt the urge to push, my little girl was born. She was “posterior” (baby’s face upwards). This can be a much more difficult presentation to deliver.
Because of how relaxed and euphoric I was at the time I never felt the much-talked-about “ring of fire” as her head emerged.
I panted as I felt her head begin to crown, so as to slow her entrance into the world. However, this little girl did not have a slow entrance in mind.
Suddenly, I felt her little legs kick inside of me and out popped Ariadne Eliana Martin.
She was 7 lbs 11 oz and 21 inches long. Her name means “the most high God has answered.” After 2 years of infertility and miscarriages, He had indeed answered.
I felt like a total rock star.
Not only had I had a completely natural birth, but I had done it without fear, and with a body so relaxed that it gave my baby a gentle entrance into the world. I found out later that the smug resident who had admitted me asked my midwife how my “boutique birth” had gone. He actually had to eat his sarcastic remarks when she told him I had “birthed like a boss” despite his doubts.
Ariadne Eliana was placed skin-to-skin on my chest.
We experienced 2 hours of breastfeeding and bonding before she was given to anyone else. I experienced postpartum complications, but she was able to be in my arms the whole time.
Ari is now 8 months old; there isn’t a day I don’t think about my birth experience and break into a smile.
Giving birth was simply the most empowering, validating thing I have ever done in my life. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my incredible birth team. Every woman deserves to feel that strong, vulnerable, loved, and beautiful at least once in her life.
Photos used with permission from photographer Mickey Sanderson – Sanderson Cottage Photography