My Birth Story
"The first time I gave birth, I felt like my body had failed me. I needed to be induced as my baby was nearly 2 weeks past her expected delivery date and then the epidural didn’t work, only numbing my legs so I couldn't move. The doctors had to use forceps to assist the delivery and I had an episiotomy. The labor, delivery, and recovery were so painful that I swore I would never have another baby. Four and a half years later, I had worked up the courage to go through it again and was expecting my second child. This time I was determined to do it without medication or interventions. More than anything, I did not want to feel powerless and disconnected from the experience.
During this pregnancy, I wanted to learn as much as I could about the process of giving birth as well as practice hypnobirthing techniques that would assist me in pain management. I found an OB/GYN (Dr. Akerman) who has a Certified Nurse Midwife in his practice (Vicki Aphailee), and I wanted to meet her to see if she would welcome assisting an unmedicated birth. When I had my first visit with Vicki, I liked her right away and she was excited and supportive of my interest in hypnobirthing. She told me about The Calm Birth School as a good resource.
For the second and third trimesters of my pregnancy, I listened to recordings from The Calm Birth School called Birth Rehearsal and Birthing Affirmations each night as I was going to sleep and often when I woke up. These helped my conscious and subconscious mind rewrite my thoughts about birthing. I also read an incredible book called Birthing From Within that gave me great perspective, knowledge, reflection activities, and tools for the birth process. In the third trimester, I shifted my yoga practice to the one from Spinning Babies to help with positioning and readying my body for labor.
Vicki was so supportive and encouraging throughout my pregnancy and she assured me that my plan for an unmedicated birth was absolutely possible. She welcomed delivering the baby in any position, so I would not be stuck lying on my back in bed with my feet in stirrups. I wanted to be able to try different positions for laboring and delivery and did not want to be worried that my medical provider wouldn’t be comfortable with that.
My biggest fear throughout my pregnancy was that I would need to be medically induced again. On my expected due date (Thursday, October 8) Vicki told me that I was 3cm dilated and 50% effaced. That Saturday through Monday, I would eat a whole pineapple, seven dates, and spicy food each day in hopes of naturally inducing labor. I was feeling very stressed, anxious, and sad that the baby had not come by her expected due date.
Since Saturday, I had been feeling practice contractions when sitting back in an Ikea Poang chair in our living room; when I would get up and walk around, they would disappear. On Monday morning, I decided to look for a contraction timer app for my phone so that I wouldn't have to do my own calculations. On The Calm Birth School’s Facebook group page, I read about the Freya app and downloaded it. Around 4pm on Monday, I started having real contractions that did not disappear when I moved around. I decided to heat up a frozen pizza for dinner because I didn't want to go to the hospital hungry. I started timing contractions with the Freya app around 5pm. I was shocked at the actual stats they were tracking as my contractions were getting 3-4 minutes apart and 30-45 seconds each.
The Freya app was a big part of my ability to stay relaxed and focused during labor. The app had me push a button when the contractions would start and end while guiding me through a breathing exercise throughout the duration. This kept my breathing calm and intentional. I could relax in between contractions knowing that my body was doing exactly what it needed to do. I was able to enter a state of non-focused awareness of pain while having the app provide calming background sound.
Around 6pm, my mom came over to pick up my daughter so that she could stay with her. My husband and I packed up the car and arrived at the St. Joseph's Hospital around 7pm. I was checked in to the triage unit where they gave me a COVID test, did a cervical exam (5cm dilated and 90% effaced), and began monitoring me and the baby, which meant I had to lie down in the bed. Until then, walking around and leaning over on tables and cabinets had been the positioning that worked best for me. Lying down for about an hour of monitoring was very difficult, but the Freya app helped me remain calm. After the monitoring, I felt my water break and I was able to use the toilet and start walking around again. While I was in triage, the nursing staff was able to call my midwife, Vicki, and she came to the hospital right away.
The minute Vicki walked through the door she brought her positive energy and I felt a huge wave of relief. She said I was doing a great job and started applying counter-pressure to my lower back, showing my husband how to do it as well. About 20 minutes after Vicki arrived, I started vocalizing a deeper grunting during the contractions and she knew that it was almost time to deliver the baby. She left the triage room to tell the nurses that even though my COVID test results hadn’t come back yet, I needed to be moved to a delivery room.
We slowly walked down the hall to the “COVID wing” delivery room (just to be safe in case the test would be positive). Arriving in the room, I felt relief knowing that we could get more settled, but my contractions were coming on so strong and fast that I couldn't be bothered to do anything but drop to my knees on the floor and drape myself over the bed. I continued to use the Freya app to control my breathing.
After a couple of contractions while kneeling on the floor, I asked Vicki to do a cervical exam so I'd have an update on what was happening. She said I was 8-9cm dilated and that I might be feeling an urge to push.
My husband suggested kneeling on the bed to be more comfortable, so I climbed up on the bed which had the back lifted up and I draped myself over the back so that I could continue to bear down on the top part of the bed with my belly pressed against the mattress. I was feeling a strong urge to push and feeling pressure in my sacrum. I told my husband to keep doing the counter pressure on my sacrum for every contraction. I was surprised how much that helped as I could feel the pressure of the baby moving down.
Soon after, I felt the “ring of fire” that I’d read about for the baby’s crowning. This burning sensation was exciting to identify, knowing that the baby was almost here. After about 6 minutes of pushing, I felt the baby's head come out. Then her body came out seemingly in the same contraction, almost immediately one after the other. I felt such a flood of relief when the baby came out that I instantly could not remember the pain sensations of the contractions and pushing. Vicki gave me my baby to hold against my chest and I felt so accomplished and relieved. I kept hearing the voice from the end of The Calm Birth School’s “Birth Rehearsal” recording saying, "You did it!"
My baby was born at 9:23pm, just over 5 hours after I had started feeling my first contractions and almost 2.5 hours from arriving at the hospital.
Because I didn’t use medication during labor, my recovery time was much faster and I had a strong, clear presence of mind throughout. I felt so empowered and deeply grateful for all the people and activities that helped me prepare for a positive birth experience. It was very redemptive and beyond what I hoped.
Thanks, again, Vicki!"