A big thank you to Emily for sharing the birth story of Shepherd James!
“The moment I found out I was pregnant with my second child it was pure joy and excitement… for about 1 whole minute, until I remembered that this meant I was going to have to birth another human. It wasn’t that I had a particularly terrible birth with my first; in fact, I would call it a pretty standard American birth. It involved epidurals, Pitocin, someone breaking my water, coached pushing, a vacuum delivery, and a lot of fear. In the end my baby was born and we got to go home after a few days but I knew in my heart that we turned something natural and beautiful into a “diagnosis” that the medical staff needed to “treat”. So I began looking for alternatives.
I turned to the UF Health Birth Center for support. And let me tell you what, that was a scary decision to make! There are no epidurals at the Birth Center; all the pain relief is natural. And there isn’t even drugs nearby, it would require a drive to the hospital, in active labor. No thanks. But when I made the commitment to have a natural birth that is when everything changed. That is when I stopped looking at birth through my society-taught lens of fear and started to view it as a perfectly natural design. I mean billions of women have given birth without drugs, why did I believe that I wouldn’t be able to? Why did I believe that my body was somehow inadequate? At that point it had grown two perfectly healthy babies, and I still wasn’t giving it any credit. Something needed to change.
My husband and I took a hypnobirthing class, which basically is a mind over matter approach. Humans are extraordinary creatures that can conquer amazing feats when we mentally want to. Just think of all the marathon runners, or Mt. Everest climbers, or English Channel swimmers. These people aren’t physically exceptional; they just wanted it really badly, so they did it. This is the mindset I began to accept in class. I began to see my body as capable of anything my mind will allow. I accepted the process of labor and delivery as expertly designed. And through a lot of support, prayer, and preparation, I approached the end of my pregnancy with the belief that I would be able to achieve the birth that I wanted.
The midwife team that had surrounded me and uplifted me throughout my 41 weeks of pregnancy was integral. I knew that I would be entering a sacred place when labor did finally find us. And it did! 8 days after my due date, the surges (contractions) finally arrived. And they arrived fast! I was making my daughter breakfast and the first ones began, two hours later I was in the car on the way to the Birth Center knowing I would have a baby that day! They began innocently enough but increased in intensity and frequency much quicker than I ever expected. I worked through about 10 surges on the couch of my living room. My training taught me to relax through each one, surrender to your body and imagine your body opening a little more each time. Some surges I could do it, other ones got away from me. But I took each one as they came, I didn’t dwell on the one behind or fret about the one to come and I tried to let me body do what I knew she could. I still had the 30-minute car ride looming over me and I realized it was distracting me, I wanted to be at my birthplace, and so we left.
The car ride was the worst part. I found it so difficult to relax in the bumping and jostling of the drive. As soon as I was wheeled into my room I had an overwhelming calm and painless first surge. This further revealed to me how important the environment and the mental strength was to this process. I was in pain in the car, but in this quiet room, I found my strength again. My amazing midwife Cindy checked me and I was already 10cm dilated. I really thought she was joking! I told her I wanted to deliver in the tub so they started filling it up. The warm water was one of the best feelings of my life, the warmth was so soothing and the weightlessness was exactly what my back and neck were craving. I entered into almost a trance-like state at this point.
I was taking one surge at a time and was deeply connected to my body and my baby. I could feel him moving down the birth canal with each surge but wasn’t pushing because my body wasn’t telling me to. I was just listening, and we stayed this way for about 1.5 hours. Then all of the sudden it was time. I pushed with just enough strength and for just as long as my body wanted. It turned out to be one short push and he was brought to crowning, quick breath, one short push and his head was born, quick breath, one final push and out he came. Cindy immediately put him on his chest and there he was, there was my baby boy!
Looking back, I am so proud of my body, and I have learned how amazing it truly is. And I want others to know that this is attainable. There is nothing special about my body that yours doesn’t have. I was scared too. I didn’t think I could do it, until I did. I let a previous experience rob my joy during the beginning of my second pregnancy. I prepared because I recognized that my mental state was more important than my physical one. I followed every doubt with a positive affirmation. I told myself, “you are stronger than you think, you are a woman, you were made to do this” over and over before and during labor. I got the birth I had only ever dreamed of.”