When did you realize you were really in labor?
I woke up at 1:30 AM the day after my due date to some cramping. The cramps weren't unbearable but they were enough to where I couldn't go back to sleep. I took my headphones, turned on the Christian Hypnobirthing App, and listened to the powerful affirmations and prayers for strength tracks, all while leaning forward on all fours on our bed. I eventually decided I needed to move around to distract myself. My husband drew me a bath- I labored there for roughly 30 minutes and found I needed to move more.
Around 4:00 AM I had some vomiting episodes and I knew that this was the real deal and there wasn't any turning back. We were meeting our baby sometime that day.
What was the most challenging thing about going natural?
I had 40-hour labor with our first baby and things did not go as planned at the hospital. 36 hours into labor, I had my water broken, and had an epidural (because there was talk of a c-section as I had labored "too long"), my blood pressure dropped putting baby boy in distress. It was extremely stressful. Thankfully, he was born vaginally.
This time around, determined to go entirely natural, I had to fight every single negative thought that entered my mind. The thought of this labor being as long as my first; that I won't be able to manage the surges; that I will tear again... It was the biggest mental battle I had ever played in my life- to remain positive and relaxed.
What was the most helpful thing you did to prepare for childbirth?
I practiced relaxation and meditation during the second half of my pregnancy using the Christian Hypnobirthing app by Tara Menzies. It was an absolute GAME CHANGER and I am SO grateful to have been introduced to it. I had several bad bouts with restless leg syndrome which caused some small panic attacks at night for me. My husband always reminded me to turn on the hypnobirthing app and 10/10, it put me to sleep.
When labor finally arrived, instead of anxiously anticipating every surge, I listened intently to the words of scripture and positive affirmations and gladly welcomed each surge with deep and intentional breathing- breathing down and out.
What surprised you about your birth?
I was surprised about the birth in two ways. The first was that it was so fast. My first labor was 40 hours and this labor was only 7 hours. At one point, my amazing nurse Vanessa checked me (I asked her to) and I was a 5, verging on 6 cm. Exactly one hour later, I felt the extreme urge to push. At that time, my water broke and two surges later, our daughter was born.
The second thing that surprised me about this birth was at one point it was painless. I know... I said it... painless. In between the back-to-back surges, I was graced and blessed with a couple of minutes of utter peace and one painless surge. I thought deeply about the expansion of a massive red rose and related that to the opening of my cervix, allowing baby to move down more.
It was the most amazing thing I had ever experienced and I know those minutes of peace are what gave me the strength to finish the labor minutes later.
I later found out that on the day I birthed my daughter, it was the feast day of St. Rosalia!
Mindset, ladies... There is an end in sight when laboring. You can do it!
What pain relief strategies worked best?
I tried to not anticipate the surges and focused heavily on my breathing. When I lost concentration on my breathing, my body tensed up and I would yell out. My midwife, my mom, sister-in-law, and nurse would constantly remind me to breathe deeply. My nurse Vanessa was a major God-send in the final stages before my daughter was born. My mom said at one point I looked up at her and my sister-in-law and I was no longer present- I was somewhere else, the going was getting rough(er). Only Vanessa could break the brainwave and talked right into my ear telling me "it's almost over... you got this.. you are so strong... Breathe deep... You got this." God bless her.
Also, Ina May Gaskin's technique of horse neighing/breathing during intense surges was also super helpful, especially in the last hour of labor.
How did it feel to hold your baby for the first time?
The delivery was so quick, I looked down and between my legs, my midwife was holding up my baby. Because I was so shocked at how quick it all was, I couldn't feel it to reach out and grab her. Eventually, I lay back in bed and found out I had a little girl (we didn't find out the sex of either of our babies). I was finally able to hold her close to my chest, taking in all the newborn smells, cries, and her black mass of newborn hair! :)
What did you name your baby, and why?
Her name is Lily Florence Marie. Lily is after the flower that St. Joseph has often depicted holding in art. My husband and I have grown to have a special devotion to him, especially this year. He has helped us with so many struggles and trials. Florence is after my mom's mom, whom I have always admired and looked up to for strength and endurance. And Marie is after our Blessed Mother, Mary. Like our son James, we also wanted Lily to bear our Holy Lady's name.
What advice can you give to other mamas who want to go natural?
I cannot stress enough the importance of mindset. It is SO important. If you tell yourself you can't do something, you will actually convince yourself of it. Words become flesh.
So constantly remind yourself of how absolutely capable you are of birthing your baby and surround yourself with a team of people who will also do the same for you. When I failed to remind myself of my ability to birth Lily, my birth team stepped in and told me I was capable and cheered me on.