A Birth Story
By: Paige Rodriguez
When I imagined bringing my son into this world, I wanted to experience it fully.
I knew it would be intense.
I knew it would push me to my limits.
I knew it would undoubtedly show me what I truly am capable of as a woman.
It was everything and nothing like I imagined. It was incredible.
To any woman out there who is nervous, or anxious, or afraid. I tell you now: don’t be.
Don’t be afraid.
I want you to take a deep breath even before you read my story and know with complete certainty, that even if you’ve only heard traumatic stories. Even if your past births have been anything but easy. You are fully capable of having the birth of your dreams.
Release those fears. Tie them to a balloon and let them float away.
I am convinced that our mindset and emotions going into labor has a huge impact on the outcome. I am convinced that our mind has more power over our bodies than we even realize, and I am convinced that our babies are just as much in tune with our emotions as our bodies are.
Be confident. Be calm. Embrace this moment and welcome it with loving, open arms.
You are strong. You are woman. You are a walking miracle. And you are about to accomplish the most amazing gift on earth. You are about to bring your baby into this world. You two (or three or four—or however many beautiful souls you have knitted inside of you right now!) are about to learn how to work together in the most incredible way and embark on this journey that will last a lifetime.
This is my story–or rather the story of a sweet baby boy, and how we worked together in order to make his entrance into this world an unforgettable one.
PART 1: The Start of Labor
It was a cold February evening around 8:00pm—a Tuesday.
My husband and I had just finished a late dinner. He was sitting at the table as he talked on the phone with a colleague and I started to clean up the kitchen.
I tried to navigate around my giant belly, trying not to bump into countertops as I wobbled back and forth from the dishwasher to cabinets. As I stood up on my tippy-tippy toes to put away some plates, I felt a POP inside. It was the kind of sensation you experience when your ears drain or start to pop–it sounds loud to you but no one else can hear it. Not painful, not startling in a scary way, just different. Not like anything I had ever felt before in my pregnancy. My husband noticed me grab my tummy and asked if I was okay.
“Yea! I don’t know what that was, but I’m fine.” I said with a smile.
I continued on with the dishes. For a minute I thought about the entire mango that I ate all to myself just before dinner. I had heard that tropical fruit can induce labor but was sure this couldn’t be it.
I had been experiencing Braxton-Hicks surges for the past two weeks. The last time it happened, I was convinced that it was labor. My husband was at work and I tried to remain calm. I stood on all fours on the bed, stretching out my hips, rocking back and forth, breathing slowly, visualizing, and humming to myself as I submitted to each wave. Then, it just stopped. Nothing happened. And right now, I felt no intense surges.
When bedtime arrived, my husband and I climbed into bed together. I remember us both exhaling as we did, melting into the covers with a sigh of relief…That feeling you’ve been waiting for all day long. He had worked a full day, rising before the sun and coming home just before dinner. He was ready to rest.
He snuggled in behind me, spooning me just the way I like and he rubbed my belly tenderly. I felt so much love in that moment. So lucky, so relaxed, so at peace.
Suddenly, I started to feel a steady rush.
I ignored it, I was too tired. It will stop.
Another rush. My eyes popped open, wide and curious. I felt like I needed to change my underpants. Did my water just break? There’s no way.
In the movies, the woman is always standing on a tile floor in a dress as her water pops and it makes a loud splat as it hits the ground. It’s a huge ordeal! That’s what I was always imagining, anyway. Apparently, this isn’t always so.
“I’m not sure, but I think my water just broke, honey.”
My husband looked at the time: 9:50pm.
We ran to the bathroom together half smiling in anticipation…I sat on the toilet and discovered that my undies were indeed soaked and my pajama pants were getting there too.
Another rush. Clear, but slightly pink.
We called the midwife and she confirmed that this was indeed my water breaking. She told us to rest while we could and to take our time coming to the hospital. Since this was our first, she said that generally things move slowly and since I wanted to do this naturally, to prolong coming into the hospital as long as possible. She said that if things didn’t start progressing, to call her back.
This didn’t worry me. I was confident that everything would be fine. I trusted my body and my baby. We were excited.
The sense of calm that consumed me was incredible. We had been preparing for this moment for months. Just about every day of my pregnancy I had taken an hour to soak in warm lavender Epsom salt baths, rubbing my tummy, talking to my baby and visualizing a healthy, peaceful birth. When my son was still rightside up late into the pregnancy, I talked to him and asked him to flip his little body for mommy, that soon it would be time for us to meet and it was time for us to get ready. A couple of days later he did so. Maybe coincidence, but I do believe in the strong innate connection between mommy and baby and practiced this with him for the duration of my pregnancy.
My husband and I studied Hypnobirthing. I didn’t take a class—we couldn’t afford it, but I have a sister who did and she coached me for months. I read the book The Mongan Method: A natural approach to a safe, easier, more comfortable birthing (3rd Edition) by: Marie F. Mongan. This truly was helpful and increased my confidence and positive impressions surrounding the birthing process. It was always my plan to have a natural birth. People would laugh at me and mock me and tell me how excruciating the pain would be. I didn’t care, or at least pretended not to. I would tell myself that for generations women had been delivering babies without intervention, sometimes even alone, and I knew in my heart that I could too.
It takes a lot of confidence to make that decision, but it also takes a lot of self-love and acceptance. I knew that if I couldn’t do it I would still love myself and not be disappointed—after all, I would be receiving my baby either way. This released any pressure on myself. However, after a certain point, I no longer imagined a birth that had any type of intervention at all. I only visualized it the way that I wanted it to go and if anyone started to tell me about their delivery “horror stories,” I’d gently stop them and say with a smile, “Sorry, we can’t hear this. The baby is listening.” (My sister gave me a hypnobirthing t-shirt that said that and I borrowed the expression often.) ☺
The whole basis of hypnobirthing revolves around the mind-body connection– that any stress and negative attitudes surrounding birth cause stress reactions in the body, which in turn creates pain. This involves everything: physical, emotional, spiritual stress. I was able to do a lot of healing while preparing for birth about things that had nothing to do with my baby and my body. However, I had to release anything that could possibly find its way into my mind during my most vulnerable moment and in turn create distraction or tension. I had to remember to relax my facial muscles, hands, feet, mouth—all of which help to relax your pelvic floor and open yourself up for delivery. The more you are able to relax, the more your body is able to work at ease, rather than working against its natural rhythm, resulting in minimal to zero pain. (Is this true? Well, we’ll touch more on this later.) My husband learned techniques to calm me, how to gently stroke my back and arms and assist me in any way I needed. He knew I needed quiet, I needed calm, I needed him there.
Soon, my surges began to surface. My belly would get tight and square-like and they became more and more intense. I would be in the middle of a sentence and have to stop talking in order to close my eyes and just breathe slowly.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
I embraced this, knowing that this was one step closer to my baby. My husband made me a fruit and spinach smoothie, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to eat once we got to the hospital and we wanted me to stock up on as many nutrients as I could at home. My sister said that you should look at this as though you are preparing for a marathon—which in retrospect is completely true. However, very soon I couldn’t even drink that. I stopped helping with the hospital bag and my husband lit candles and ran me a warm lavender bath.
I soaked and stroked my belly. The surges kept coming and my husband wrote down the times and lengths of each so that we could keep the midwife updated.
He watched me lovingly and in silence. We put on my soothing music and hypnobirthing mantras. I would close my eyes and concentrate on calming every inch of my body, submitting to each wave and riding them with my baby. I’d peek my eyes open every so often to see that my husband had stuck post-it notes on the bathroom wall with encouraging words on them. Each time I’d open my eyes, there would be a new one:
You’re doing great, babe.
Pressure not pain.
Breathe him out, baby.
I love you.
You’re so beautiful.
You’re so strong.
I was smiling through surges, breathing deeply and slowly, rubbing my belly in anticipation and excitement. We watched my plug release and knew things were moving along now, that this was real.
When the surges became really intense and the pressure started building rapidly, I asked him to drive me to the hospital. The midwife thought it was still too early, but I followed my instincts. I knew that if we waited any longer, I wouldn’t be able to move and we would be having this baby at home. So off we went.
There was snow on the ground, I remember. A couple of inches. I was wearing my husband’s PJ pants—the only ones that fit, some bath slippers, and a T-shirt with his oversized sweatshirt on top. Already I didn’t want anything on me, but with the weather so cold I had to bundle up—just enough. I trudged through, stopping every minute or so to breathe. A woman passed us on our way to the car and already knew what was happening. She had been watching my belly grow for months. She wished us well with a smile and told us “God bless.”
PART 2: To the Hospital
In the car, every bump felt so exaggerated. Each contraction brought another awful rush to my pants and they were completely soaked by the time we got to the hospital. I didn’t want to walk but I leaned on my husband and we made our way inside.
I remember the bright lights were so intense. I already missed the calm ambience of our home, the candles, the coziness. I wanted to go back.
A man who worked at the hospital helped to wheel me into the triage and he talked the entire time. I couldn’t speak because the surges kept coming and were very intense but I remember the chatter and laughter, as well as the bright lights, were just too much stimulation for me. I wanted him to stop. I wanted to tell him to shut up and I wanted my husband to read my mind and to tell him to shut up.
The nurse asked me to try to pee before the midwife came in but I couldn’t. I can’t even remember what she did in there. I concentrated so hard. I know that I wasn’t able to pee, and she said that it was okay and that I could try later. I asked my husband to have her whisper to me. She was so kind and sweet and had such an upbeat tone, I must have seemed like such a miserable wretch, but the pressure in my womb that was radiating to my lady parts was building with such force that anything above a whisper seemed like nails to a chalkboard to me.
When the midwife arrived, she was both surprised and delighted to find that I was already 7cm dilated. It was about 3am at this point and she said that things were moving along beautifully.
We had gotten very lucky that night. If I remember correctly, there was only one birthing tub in that entire hospital at the time. We had requested it but there were no guarantees of receiving it, of course. Another mommy could have gone into labor before me and claimed it. But that night it was ours. It was such an incredible relief to learn this.
The room was huge. We handed the midwife my birthing plan. Lights were dimmed, LED candles were scattered around me, and the birthing tub was filled immediately. My husband added lavender and I sat in the water.
All I can say is WOW. What an immediate relief of pressure as soon as my body touched the warm water. The surges were still intense but I could manage them a lot better. I felt my entire body relax and it was true what the books said: when I exhaled and fully submitted to my body, the surges weren’t so powerful.
I put my headphones in and listened to the mantras.
I don’t know how long I listened, maybe 5 minutes before I wanted to tell that lady to shut up because this was getting REALLY difficult. I switched to my calming music instead.
At some point I ripped the headphones out of my ears and asked my husband to take them. I couldn’t hear anything. My sister said that cyclical music helped her, but I needed silence. I would listen to my breathing and the swishing of the water as I moved about and that’s it. This was calming.
Everyone said that I looked so calm and collected. The midwife was convinced that I would deliver the baby myself, I looked so in control.
On the inside? I was concentrating so hard. Keeping my face calm, my expression blank, my breathing consistent, long, deep breaths. When I knew that I was 7cm I figured it would be so fast. I thought in another hour or two I’d be done, our son would be in my arms. Not so.
Part 3: Transition
During transition, like most women, I got sick. I couldn’t stop throwing up. My husband held the bucket for me and I couldn’t care that it was so gross. Every time I puked I could feel the baby push further down and as a reflex I would clench. I couldn’t help it. It’s like when you sneeze and you clench your kegels so you don’t pee yourself.
I couldn’t control anything. I kept pooping in the tub, too. The nurses had to use a little net to fish it out, which we laugh about now but I was mildly embarrassed about it. I apologized to them and they said that truly it happens all of the time and not to worry. I’m only telling you this because I didn’t expect it at all and want you to know that if it happens, it’s okay and seriously, you couldn’t stop it if you tried.
At one point someone asked me to try to get out of the tub. The contractions were coming one after another now and when they occurred, it hurt to move. I stood up and any pressure the water was lifting off of me came crashing down like a ton of bricks. I felt like my butt was going to fall off and I would fall back into the water.
This is when things get spiritual. I found strength inside of myself that I didn’t know I had. I would rest my head on the side of the tub and breathe and when a contraction would end, I would rest. It would feel like an hour nap when really it would be mere seconds. It’s incredible what our minds can do.
I was stuck at 9cm forever it seems. Every time the midwife would check me, I’d be expecting her to tell me I was fully dilated, to no avail. I started to think that I couldn’t do it. I started to feel doubt. I started to pray. At one point I lifted my head from the tub and looked up to see a simple cross hanging on the wall.
Peace. Strength. Love. Affirmation.
I could do this.
This is around the time that my husband came to my rescue. I truly would not have been able to do it without him—he was the most incredible labor companion. I couldn’t have asked for more.
I drew strength from him. I stared into his eyes and borrowed his calm. He inhaled slowly and deeply, as I looked into his eyes and mimicked each movement he made. He wouldn’t say a word, he only showed me the way.
I fell deeper in love with my husband during that time.
My cousin was one of the labor and delivery nurses by my side that morning (another blessing) and she encouraged me to get out of the tub at this point. I was so grateful for her. I needed someone to tell me what to do because nothing I was doing was working. I was getting discouraged.
When I got into the bed, I laid on my back. My midwife told me to push. I had tried to push in the tub, but everything I read about in hypnobirthing talked about breathing the baby down. This didn’t work for me; I didn’t know how.
My cousin leaned down next to my ear and said, “It’s just like taking a big ole’ poop.”
Lightbulb moment! I had been resisting the urge to release like that, I had been feeling the pressure build in my butt for hours but since this was my first child, I had no idea if that was normal. (It was. That’s how it’s supposed to feel.)
And so I did. My husband had one of my legs held up with one arm, and my cousin had the other. With his other hand, my husband held the IPod and recorded the whole thing.
Part 4: Delivery
Lord, I uttered sounds that I didn’t know I could make. I yelled the most guttural, animal-sounding shrieks. Watching that video is so hilarious now because I didn’t realize I sounded like that, I didn’t even realize I was yelling. It’s like when you watch those competitive body builders lift 1000 lb weights and they make those obnoxious yelps. I get it now. I know why they do that.
When people refer to the crowning as the “ring of fire,” it’s true. It feels like fire. I know that sounds awful, but it doesn’t last forever. As soon as I thought that I couldn’t take anymore, he was out and in my arms. You feel this intense, innate inclination to just keep going, with all of your might, until forever if you have to. You need this. You’ve made it this far and you need this. And you can. And you will. And you do.
It was the most incredible, gratifying, sentimental, spiritual moment of my life. I did it. I did THAT. I did what other people doubted, what some thought was impossible, at certain points, I thought was impossible. But I did it.
Our sweet boy was here. At 10:08am, 7 lbs 7 ½ oz, 21 inches long. He was perfect.
He was so calm when he came out. He didn’t cry right away, until they gave him a good rub with the towel and laid him on my chest. He looked right up at me and I cried. My husband kissed us both and he cried too. It was the most amazing moment of my life. Magical even. The amount of love that filled that room was insurmountable. Our family was complete.
We ran into trouble soon after delivery because I was too exhausted to push any longer—my body completely shut down. I hadn’t delivered the placenta yet and I started to lose a lot of blood. My midwife asked if she could administer Pitocin to encourage contractions but even this didn’t help and so she had to pull it out manually.
Things got a little crazy after this, I must admit. I don’t want to discourage any momma’s reading this because it was a very traumatic experience for me for a long time. I want you to know that everything turned out okay. I am okay, my son is okay.
I now know the importance of resting directly after birth and the prolonging of visitors. I know the importance of rehydrating and eating after birth, and have also researched measures that can be taken in order to prevent hemorrhaging (such as drinking a nettle tincture during and after labor) as well as taking an iron supplement after labor (such as Floradix, which is easy for your body to absorb quickly and doesn’t cause constipation.) I know that jaundice for newborns is more common than we realize and that a little time under some lights is okay. I know that my milk supply will sustain and I know that my husband and I can endure just about anything together.
I have healed both physically and emotionally from this birth. The labor and delivery was perfect. The moments just after did not go as planned, such is life. And that’s okay.
I’ve made peace with all of it. For a long time I was afraid to have a second baby at all, in fear that I wouldn’t survive it. However, I have great faith that I will be more than prepared for baby #2, whenever that is, and believe I will be able to have another beautiful, healthy birth when God says it’s time.
For now, I simply feel incredibly blessed that I was able to experience this gift at all. That I was able to grow life inside of me and learn how to become so in tuned with my body and my baby, as we worked together in bringing him earthside. Thank you God and thank you universe.
To any mommies out there rubbing your tummies in anticipation, I want you to know: I believe in you. I’m sending so much love and light your way and you are going to be amazing. Here’s to an extraordinary birth!