I never gave much thought to the details of childbirth until I got pregnant.
Even then, I didn’t worry too much. Friends advised me and my husband to hire a doula to teach us about the birthing process, so we did. Since I was fit and healthy and enjoying every second of my growing belly, the more I learned about labor, the more confident I became about having the most natural and positive birthing experience possible—until I found myself crying at the hospital. My water started to leak slowly and my contractions didn’t start. To be safe and to protect my baby from any chance of infection, the doctor suggested we induce labor with pitocin (a synthetic form of oxytocin used in such circumstances.)
The labor experience was so different from what I expected. In the moments after her birth, I held her briefly, but I was so exhausted and the doctors were so eager to make sure she was ok that we barely had a chance to connect. It took me more than three months to recover from the labor, and almost a year for my body to feel ready to exercise again. It was a traumatic experience for all of us.
the more I learned about labor, the more confident I became about having the most natural and positive birthing experience possible—until I found myself crying at the hospital.
Three years later when we found out that I was pregnant for the second time, my husband said,“Let’s schedule a cesarian!” He didn’t want to watch me suffer all over again, and neither did I. My OB-GYN was also concerned, since he thought my hips—which he called “runner’s hips”— were too narrow to push a baby out naturally, and was maybe one of the reasons why I had such difficulty the first time.
But something inside me made me think that this labor would be different. It was a gut feeling that this time I could achieve a safe and satisfying birth experience without medication. I just needed to be fully prepared for it, mentally and physically.
As soon as I found out that I was pregnant, I stopped running, to loosen all the tightness my body had built up during years of triathlon training. For the next nine months I swam, did pilates, and treated baby and myself to a few prenatal massages with my wonderful midwife and doula.
Doula is a birth coach that works alongside obstetricians to provide emotional support, encouragement, and wisdom for mothers and fathers throughout labor and birth
When I was 38 weeks pregnant, I got a surprise. My doctor said I would have to be induced if my labor didn’t start in the next two weeks. Oh my, again! It was the last thing I wanted to do it. So I called my midwife/doula, and asked her what I could do to help my labor start naturally. She suggested a few ideas:
1. Easy long walks
2. Evening primrose pills
4. Relax and meditate
Well, option 1 and 2 were easy, so I did them daily. Option 3, sex, sounded fun, but no so much when you are 38 weeks pregnant and big and tired. We tried our best! Option 4, relax and mediate, should have been easy, but with a to-do list to finish before baby’s arrival, sitting down and relaxing wasn’t that simple. Option 5 was my favorite, since acupuncture has helped me so many times in the past with other health related issues, and it also helped me relax!
The next day I had an appointment with an acupuncturist that specialized in pregnant women. I felt relaxed after the session, but no signs of labor. I set up another appointment for the following week. Later that night after the appointment, I started to have light and more consistent contractions. I tried my best to rest, sleep and hydrate, but I could feel that the real labor was coming. Around 8 a.m. the next day, active labor started, and I welcomed each contraction. As they were getting stronger and stronger, Dr. Ye reminded me:
Your body will give you what you can take!
For the next hours, we alternated walking around the block and resting at home. My husband held me, my mother kept me hydrated while my doula guided us. Each contraction, she said, was one step closer to meeting our baby. All the while, my wise, little three-year-old daughter massaged my back and held my hand. She knew, and probably could feel, that the baby was coming.
Being surrounded and supported by them made it easier to keep a grateful mindset and to accept those powerful feelings, not as pain, but as sacred to the experience.
We were all in my room when my water broke. It was such a relief, and I knew I was reaching the finish line. We arrived at the hospital at 3 p.m., and baby Blake was in my arms, or more precisely at my breast, sucking colostrum at 3:12 p.m. Here is a drawing that my friend’s daughter gave me at my second baby shower, she predicted that the labor was going to be a “BOOM!”
Everything happened so fast, but I still remember every detail—every feeling, every voice, every touch. I never felt so connected to my body. The recovery was also impressive! Seconds after delivering my baby, I felt more alive and more thrilled than ever. Just a few weeks later, my body healed. I felt strong. My baby thrived, too. In one month, he doubled his weight to 12 pounds, exclusively by breast feeding.
There’s no recipe for natural birth. I am grateful for all the medical support and technology that enables mothers to have healthy babies since each circumstance is unique, so each approach should be unique. My intent in sharing my labor experience is to empower other moms to trust their bodies, to take charge of their lifestyle choices and to find the support they need to enjoy childbirth the best way they can. It’s a magnificent experience!