There is no doubt about it. This was the longest birth I have ever supported & I am still in awe at the strength of Mariana & her ability to labour with a posterior baby for so long. I arrived at 10pm Wednesday night & stayed with this couple until their beautiful boy was born Friday early morning. It was raw, powerful and I will never forget when this mother when from 5cm to 9cm in under two hours. The pure joy & elation was palpable in the air. I cried tears in this birth. I cried for her strength, I cried in exhaustion & I cried because she did it, like I knew she could…
I had a plan in my mind for Sasha’s birth: I didn’t want to be induced nor to have an epidural. Every pregnancy and every mother-to-be are different, and I truly believe each person knows best what fits them. Still, those were my main choices as I did want to live this experience in total, avoiding all and any unnecessary medical intervention, just allowing my body to do what it is designed to do.
My complications were: a) I had gestational diabetes; b) I was taking what they consider a significant dosage of Insulin to control my fasting sugars; c) I was getting very close to what they established as my due date.
A quick background before we jump to the birth:
My partner and I are both originally from Brazil, so we don’t have much support here, and we knew almost nothing about pregnancy, birth and having a little baby.
After getting diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, I felt lost and overwhelmed by the possibility of not having a natural birth. We decided to get a doula when I was 25 weeks pregnant
That is when Jade enters the story. She helped us in so many ways! She not only gave us helpful information but also taught us how to find reliable scientific evidence, to a point where my partner and I spent too much energy researching that got us a bit overwhelmed and anxious. Then Jade stepped in once again, recommending us to stop, chill out a little bit and instead of keeping up with the solitaire research, look for a hypnobirthing course, so we could use our focus on something that would really help us in the final stage of pregnancy. Also, I was fortunate to have Jade at my side after every doctor’s appointment, offering some comfort and reassurance once my hospital visits were becoming more frequent and loaded with uncertainty and disappointment.
In almost all my third trimester appointments, I was recommended to be induced around 39 weeks. There were concerns about the baby getting too big (which were proven wrong with an additional ‘urgent’ ultrasound around 36 weeks). I felt an increasing weight on my shoulders, week after week, as I never wanted to put myself or the baby at risk, but they made me believe that I was making wrong choices.
We did the hypnobirthing course when I was 37 weeks, and it was life-changing. So good to get to know lots of positive birth stories, learn different relaxation tools and deeply connect with my partner and baby.
I then started practising all the exercises learned in the course, plus all the natural induction tips I could find, such as acupuncture, acupressure, exercise ball, long walks, teas, expressing colostrum etc, etc. I was so into getting my labour started without an induction that I ended up testing every natural way of triggering it, not knowing that baby would only come whenever they feel ready!
I tried to convince myself that when the time for birth arose, everything would go as smoothly as practical, and I would breathe through the surges as I had practised, visualising the moment I would have my baby in my arms.
But to be honest, deep down, I expected to be the lucky one that has an incredible ability to handle physical pain or that my body would just spill my baby out during the shower or even in the car on my way to the hospital.
On the day of my due date, I had a consultation with my OB, and after some debating, we agreed I would not be induced before 41 weeks was completed. I still had faith in a natural start, but I started getting frustrated and nervous about not being able to. I came home upset as the induction seemed imminent and again talked to Jade on the phone. She brings me to a better place, and as we were talking, some light surges started popping up. It was around midday. She said that I could be showing signals of early stages of labour and that she would check in with me again later in the day.
I have had lots of Braxton-Hicks through my second and third trimesters, but on that day, I knew they were different. They were manageable initially but were slowly intensifying to a point where I needed to stop and breathe through each one of them.
I went for a walk by the beach with my partner. Then we came back home, and he was preparing a bath when things got more intense.
He talked to Jade a couple of times by message and then over the phone, but when it was 7pm, we asked her to come over.
Jade came, and that made all the difference. She brought the tens machine and started doing massages, putting pressure on my lower back and talked me through each surge. My partner quickly learned some of the above and began taking turns with her. Even though I was in a lot of pain, I felt supported and loved.
They’ve talked me through my surges for the entire time: going ‘up and down the mountain’, a thousand times with me, massaging my body and my soul with their kind words and strong hands.
We went to the hospital around 2am, I had already seen the mucus plug come out, and I felt a pressure point lower in my pelvis with the surges. I got checked to find I was only 1cm dilated. They recommended me coming back home. I was almost giving up as the pain was getting more intense, and I was feeling weak as I couldn’t keep anything in my stomach. I was close to considering an epidural when Jade reminded me of our plan: take pain relief (Panadol) to try to sleep a bit, and in the morning, we would try a few positions and exercises at home to get things progressed. If the pressure got worse (at that time, the pressure was more like real pain!), we would still have a few options before succumbing to an epidural.
So, we came back home. I tried to sleep between my surges (I could sleep in turns of 10 to 12 minutes for almost 3 hours), and in the morning, I was back on my own track, feeling more positive and relaxed. We did what we could at home to help my progress and pain relief. Around 2pm, my waters broke. I coped with it a few more hours at home, and around 5pm, I decided I was ready to go back to the hospital. I knew I would not come back home without my baby.
Once we got there, they rechecked me and, to my surprise, got told I was only 2cm dilated. However, I knew dilation is not the only or the best indication of progress, and I embrace the fact that I was completely effaced.
We continued labouring at the delivery suite, using the exercise ball in the shower, always counting on my partner or Jade to counter pressure every surge. After a few hours, I used some morphine and the gas, which was very helpful to help me focus on my breathing during the waves.
At around 1am I was only 5 cm. By 2 am I started feeling an urge to push, and we rushed to get the midwife in the room. I was 9cm by then. It was very close, but she told me to wait, so I had to handle an extreme urge to push. After a while, she checked again, and I was fully dilated.
I then got on the floor, the lights were still minimum in the room, and the midwife did what she could to keep checking the baby’s heartbeat without changing my position.
After 1h30 of intense and exhausting pushing, I had Sasha in my arms, and it was the most incredible feeling!
From the time my ‘intense’ surges started to the time I finally met my baby, 40h had passed! 40 hours trying to handle my body, which would shake involuntarily and throw up everything I tried to ingest. 40 hours exercising my mind to focus on my positive birth desire and visualising the moment my baby would break into the earthside.
I confess that I wanted to give up at some stages during this time and just do whatever was easier and faster to get things done. However, I had the most impressive supporting team with me that knew exactly what I wanted from the beginning and would bring me back to my best self every time I needed it.
Of course, there’s a lot of beauty in labouring, but I reckon we tend to romanticise it a bit, especially first-time moms. Now I know there’s no magic at all. It is an extremely intense physical, spiritual and emotional endurance.
I knew that I had so many things to learn in this process, so much healing for my body and soul, to the point that I believe this was the reason I kept my mind straight most of the time.
Along the process, I had to dispute my preferences with doctors and hospital policies quite a few times. It is a bit tiring to ‘fight the system’, but at the end of the day, I found supportive people along my way that have treated me with respect and followed my lead (sometimes reluctantly, though, frankly speaking).
I can say this was by far the most intense experience I’ve ever had in my life, but the most rewarding as well!
The strength and power I’ve never believed I had were there all the time, and now I can see it every day through the eyes of my baby.
To the first time mamas out there: I wish your pregnancy and birth process to be a positive one, surrounded by love. And I wish you find all the support you need to persevere in your will, to be heard and respected all the way through!
Her 5 Points to Positive
What is she most proud of?
Handling the pain calm (most of the time) and being able to labour with minimal medical interventions.
What was her OMG moment?
When the doctor came and told me I wasn’t progressing much (when I was 5cm dilated), he recommended an induction and the epidural. I told him that I was happy with the way things were going and that I wanted to wait.
After 1 hour, I was 9cm dilated.
What was the best thing her partner did?
He stayed with me the whole time. He was calm and said many times how proud he was of me. He also kept my phone with him and asked my family and friends from Brazil to send me positive messages, and from time to time, he would share them to encourage me to keep going.
What does she want YOU to know?
I want women to believe in themselves and get informed and empowered to birth the way they think is best for them.
Best thing about having a doula?
Having someone to help me make informed decisions during my pregnancy and give me emotional and physical support to have a positive birth experience, following through with my wishes.