Note from Jesse: Birth stories are written by parents, in their own words. The only edits I make are to preserve their privacy and keep their identities anonymous, if they wish to. These stories may include very real moments of emotion, trauma and emergency situations. All births are variable and unique, I hope to show that by sharing these stories. If you wish to share your story, please email email@example.com
My mother had all four of us at home, with only my father and a midwife by her side. She never spoke about giving birth as this terribly difficult and challenging experience, and always made it sound quite natural and special. Of course I was hoping I could have a similar experience to hers, the only problem being that I would be giving birth to my first child in the USA instead of the Netherlands, my home country. The medicalisation of birth, the scare mongering and the sheer C-section rate in the US scared me. Hence, my husband and I poured some effort into finding a midwife, birthcentre and doula to help us have the most natural and empowered experience as possible. Medical assistance would be only seconds away if we needed it (the birthcentre was part of a hospital) but it shouldn't dominate the experience if it wasn't necessary. In hindsight these were some of the best decisions we could have ever made, because I look back with marvel and awe at the birth of my daughter. It was difficult, painful and hard, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world. It was a great start to her life.
I lost my mucus plug (never knew this was a thing btw) early in the morning on a Saturday, my due date actually, but went on with my day as normal. Sure, I felt a bit more cramping and 'off' but we had a nice brunch scheduled with friends who were in town, and I was supposed to meet another friend for coffee. It was a cold day, and it was pretty tiring to walk around Brooklyn for these appointments, so in the afternoon I decided to take it easy and hang out at home. Around dinner time the contractions started to come, and my husband and I basically tried to do what we'd been told by the midwife and doula: eat, rest, keep your cool. We cooked dinner even though I regularly had to grab the kitchen table to catch the contractions, but managed to go on like this for a while. Only later in the evening it became so difficult that I couldn't be comfortable in any other position than being on my hands and knees. That's when our doula came to our home, and I will always remember how comforting it was for both of us when she came in. My husband had someone to tell him what to do, and I was grateful for the support. She helped me labor in the bath and helped us decide when to go to the hospital. We didn't give our midwife as much of a heads up as we should have, so we hoped to arrive at the birthcentre around the same time as her. The cab ride was also memorable, our doula wedged herself between the front and back seats so she could stabilize me while I rode the cab on hands and knees (!).
Once we arrived in the hospital I went through the most unpleasant part of the whole night. I had to pass 'triage' in order to be allowed to give birth in the birthcentre. It basically required a bunch of tests, including monitoring the baby's heart rate for a continuum of 20 minutes. I was in pain, and at 19 minutes the heart monitor fell off because the baby moved around so much. They made me repeat it, and I was practically in tears. However, once I got into the birthcentre (hurray!) the scene returned to be calm and reassuring. The room was dark, I again spent a lot of time in the bath, and when it was time to push, my husband and I both have a memory of being surrounded by the nurse, midwife and doula, all sitting on the hospital floor around us (I was sitting on a birthstool). They constantly provided positive reinforcement and encouragement and gently advised me when to change positions or try something else. And then at some point the moment was there, our daughter was born and she crawled to my chest. Breastfeeding was painful at first, but again, there were several women around me to help me figure it out. We spent the next day just staring at her and holding her. The birthcentre was incredible. Fortunately we didn't have to leave the room, so we had a lot of privacy in those first hours of being a family of three.
I'm extremely grateful that the women who supported me in birth where there for me. It's something I wish for every woman, and it saddens me that this isn't the case. Of course it's not always possible, medical issues are real, and need adequate interventions, but we can't forget that birth is not a disease. I remember being overtaken by my own body, it knew what to do, so when I had people around me that recognised these signs, knew how to respond and guide me through it, the birthing process basically unfolded. This story is very personal of course, not one I would normally share with anyone, but if it can help change the system than this is the least I can do.