For mothers who are thrilled with their birthing experience,
For mothers that are not,
For mothers to be that have no clue what to expect.
By Tanja Nenadovic Vasquez
This is the story about my pregnancy and natural, vaginal, un-medicated birthing and choosing of the team that helped me accomplish all that.
It was Monday night. We went to bed, but for whatever reason I kept getting these waves that would pull me out of my sleep each time I almost drifted into the dream land. I coped with it for some time, then texted Donna, my midwife. She suggested to take a bath, which would ease off waves and give me some time to rest. I jumped in the tub and took a shower. I have not realized at all at the time that bath and shower are not the same not only linguistically but medically as well for a birthing woman especially: bath is slowing the birthing process while shower is intensifying it. So, that is what I have got – intensified birthing waves (known as contractions in medical vocabulary). Around 1.30am I woke up my husband and told him that I think I am having pressure waves and they are kind of strong. He got ready and we worked together as a team and did all that we learned from Donna and Holly. Around 3am we called Holly to join us. She came ready, as always. Using her rebozo (special scarf, very sturdy and long), Holly guided me through different positions during my waves while she and my husband were either massaging me, or squeezing my hips, or holding me one way or the other.
She also brought oil lamp with soothing oils, warm and cold packs to release the tension in my back, and different essential oils for the massage.
As I said, Holly is a person of excellence who is always a mile ahead.
Around 10am I was on the phone with Donna during one of the pressure waves and she determined that it is time for her to join us. She came to our home and examined me. “Six centimeters! Great! I am heading to the hospital to prepare everything. You get ready and we’ll meet there.” Donna said and stormed through the door. We got ready and followed her.
We arrived to the hospital around 11am where Rachel, our photographer, joined us. Journey to the hospital and the hospital procedure took some time, which disturbed my flow with the waves. But once it was over, we were able to concentrate on my birthing journey. Donna was directing us all what kind of position I should do next. Alex and Holly were helping me do all of them tirelessly, silently, without any flinch, while Rachel, invisibly for me, documented all that with her magic camera eye. Not to mention that all of them coped with my loud and constant prayers to God, singing, and my outbursts of demands and requests in occasionally unkind way. None of them ever answered back, they just did the best they could to accommodate each and every need that I had. That was tremendously important to me since it gave me all the space to concentrate on gliding through my waves that were slowly but surely intensifying and coming closer. There was a big clock in the birthing room, but God helped me not to focus on it, but rather stay in the moment and let go, let God, and go through waves with Him and my DREAM TEAM.
I noticed the time was passing and it seemed rather long, but I did not care.
I had one goal and one goal only – to birth our son safely, gently, naturally, vaginally, unmedicated.
Donna later explained to me and my husband what I was going through in order to accomplish that. Our son was positioned head down and started descending. He was on the right-hand side of my belly, which took him the longest way to come to the right position – down my belly button (baby moves clock-wise during birthing, another lesson from Donna). This took about five-six hours to happened and for me to open from six to eight centimeters. My DREAM TEAM, led by Donna, had all the time and patience in the world for me and our son, because my goal was their goal too – natural, vaginal, unmedicated birth as long as possible! Once we accomplished the voyage, Donna realized that our son’s head is tilted in such a way that he is hitting one of my pelvis’ bones. He would not be able to come out by himself in such a position, so that would probably ended up being a c-section for me, shouldn’t I have my DREAM TEAM by my side. All their amazing knowledge helped me go into different positions during birth waves so that our son can come out of my pelvis just enough to change the head position and then slide back in. This took some time again and we were bound to infuse some oxytocin here and there to keep things going smoothly (should you ever meet Donna or Holly, they will tell you what that means).
Around 9pm Donna finally said: “You got it, dear! Time to push! Would you like us to direct you or to push at your pace?” I was so focused on going through waves that I did not know how to switch now and I needed direction. So, Donna asked me to lie on the bed while she positioned herself at the bottom of it where my son was about to arrive. She positioned my husband to hold my right leg and Holly to hold my left leg. She directed me how to position my body, follow urges to push and just do it at my timing. This lasted for about an hour, and it took about five-six pushes according to Donna. In the midst of it, Donna asked me to touch my son’s head that was crowning. At first touch I just felt something soft and hairy. Second time when I touched I felt most of his head coming and I screamed the scream of COMPLETE JOY – MY SON IS HERE!!
It was 10.06pm on October 4th, 2016th, only about twenty-four hours after it all started. And folks just so you know, I WOULD NEVER MAKE IT WITHOUT MY DREAM TEAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
T H A N K Y O U, MY LOVE!!!!!!!!!!
T H A N K Y O U, DONNA!!!!!!!!!
T H A N K Y O U, HOLLY!!!!!!
T H A N K Y O U, RACHEL!!!!!!!!!!
GOD BLESS YOU AND REWORD YOU FOR YOUR AMAZING WORK, DEDICATION, ALL YOUR LOVE AND CARE THAT YOU GAVE ME!!!!!!!!!!!!
“My Dream Team” Backstory
At the beginning of February 2016, we found out that I am pregnant. Thrilled with the news, I visited my obstetrician, but my appointment did not go how I expected. I did not feel informed enough about my pregnancy process and different testing that kept being required and never explained; my questions were at times answered in a tone “not a big deal” or “you should know that”; and I was slightly ridiculed when I mentioned that my job (teacher for 2 to 6 year old children) is getting a bit demanding for me in my new condition. It took me few months to admit to myself that I deserve better than that and to start the research for new care-provider, preferably midwife this time. My husband suggested to call each hospital affiliated with midwifes and ask them for their names and phone numbers. First on my list was Hackensack UMC Pascack Valley in Westwood, NJ. They gave me quite a few names so I called each and every one of them. My husband, who was helping with the research, said: “Check this one out, I think you will like her, Donna Tabas.” I did as he said and felt that she is THE ONE! And that is how I started forming my DREAM TEAM.
Now I will tell you more about each and every team member.
First and most important one is MY HUSBAND, of course. The one I took longest time choosing, only little bit over thirty years! And even that was not my choice, I believe, it was God’s preordained plan for us and I am so thankful for him in my life – the most loving, caring, kind, and gentle person that I know of. And he only confirmed all that through my pregnancy and birthing journey. He was by my side when I was doing the pregnancy test – we cheered in amazement together to my pregnancy and our parenthood that was starting; he was researching and letting me know each week what is happening with our baby and what parts of its body is developing at the moment; he supported me when I needed to stop working unexpectedly at three months of my pregnancy due to challenging requirements of my teaching job; he was by my side when I was changing from obstetrician to midwife and did research with me and helped me find the right person for us; he read the books that were teaching him how to help me during the pregnancy and birthing, he coped as a champ to my occasional emotional outbursts of tears and such; he loved me through each and every pregnancy or just womanly tantrum; he was there to not let me give into my sugar cravings at times; he was by my side at the ultrasound exams watching in wonder with me our son growing in my belly; he supported me when choosing the doula; he worked hard after work on our baby’s room fixing the walls with contractor, painting, putting the trim; he was kissing our son each and every morning and night for both of us with such joy and gentleness. He is the love of my life, my rock and my stronghold. I hope that most of the ladies reading this have such support, and that the men will be inspired to be such a support.
The most important medical support that taught me so much about everything that I ever needed to know about my pregnancy and birthing was DONNA TABAS, CNM. I still remember our first meeting and her gentle and calm, yet strong and confident demeanor that won my adoration. Even before we decided to work with her, my husband and I learned so much from her. “SHE IS THE ONE!” we agreed and our real pregnancy journey began. First thing that Donna did was give me the booklet of about two hundred pages that she created that covers all possible questions that a pregnant woman will ever think of asking: from dietary requirements and how much weight I should gain to all the changes my body and mind can possibly experience during this process, and more. She also explained to us what is the difference between medicated and unmedicated birthing and why the first one ends up with C-section in 40% of the cases when the real emergencies are actually only 10%. As I mentioned before, Donna is very gentle but very open and persistent as well – she will do everything in her power to help you birth in the most natural way without distressing you or the baby and only in the real emergencies go for other alternatives. In order to do so, her goal is to keep mother as healthy as possible. In my case that meant – stay away from sweets and watch your weight because it was high to begin with. When Donna faced me with that in her direct but kind way, I was a bit hurt deep down inside. “Well, I was not that much overweight anyways! I am doing my best. I am not even eating the whole chocolate bar a day!” deceiving justifications went on and on in my mind until all of a sudden I realized: “Donna is not my enemy nor will she gain one ounce of anything if I do listen to her or not. The only advantage from her advices will come to me and my child. So, what am I fussing about?!?! Donna is trying to help me and it is up to me if I am going to listen to her and now help myself! And I AM!” So, I took all the paperwork about food that Donna gave me and worked diligently on following the food chart and food intake that was suggested. Whenever I had sugar craving I followed Donna’s advice and took some protein (nuts, egg, piece of whole-wheat something) instead. Little by little my sugar-cravings eased of. Thanks to Donna I concord the reality and the myth of my cravings.
Donna also kept saying: “If you want to have natural vaginal birth you have to have doula, have to have doula, have to have!” Oh man! Coming from a country where that did not even exist yet and where just few decades ago my grandmothers gave birth wherever they happened to be around the house at the moment due to a lifestyle in the countryside, I thought that Donna is surely overreacting about doula. Nonetheless, I decided to find out for myself what that doula really is. After the research, I concluded: “Doula means having a private masseuse at the birthing, and this strong Serbian girl does not need that for sure!” And if Donna did not gently persist, I would live to learn how wrong I was. To find out more about Donna and her wonderful work, please visit her website www.northjerseymidwiferycare.com.
My husband and I decided to research still more the doulas in our area. Once we gathered all the information needed, I started contacting different doulas and I must say that I came across many nice ones. However, some were not available, some were over our budget, some were having clients at the same time as our due date… I managed to interview few still and things just did not feel right with them, until I met HOLLY GRAFF! She came ready in each and every way – she was present, very sensitive to my nature and needs, surprisingly knowledgeable not only about basics but about all different approaches, techniques, and exercises that I was interested in and she was able to do it with me on the spot. WOW! Thank you, God! I really liked her and felt comfortable having her in our birthing room, so I asked her to come again and meet my husband. She won my husband’s heart in a beat also with easy going conversation, but even more so with gentle instructions about his role before, during, and after the birthing process. It was very important that two of them bonded and had good communication, because they would work as a team in helping me go through my highs and lows at birthing. As a person of excellence, which Holly Graff certainly is, she came again to visit us and teach us how to properly do certain exercises that our midwife asked us to do during the last weeks of my pregnancy. Thank you, Holly! If interested in contacting Holly, please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
RACHEL CONNOLLY KWOCK is professional doula and photographer. She came unexpectedly into our lives, again through our midwife, Donna Tabas, and at the last minute almost, but we are so grateful that she did! I fell in love with her writing while browsing her adorable website http://www.speakingofbirth.com/ She shared her deepest self in many of the stories which I consider very brave and admired her before we even met. When we did meet, her calm and soothing demeanor, none intrusive but gliding curiosity, and gentleness in manner won both me and my husband and we agreed to have her on board of what is to become my dream team. During my birthing, I was ever grateful for that decision, because she was not only completely invisible and quite so I did not even notice that she was photographing me, but she was also invaluable part of the team contributing with the ideas for new positions during my waves, reminding the team that they need to eat to keep the strength, and keeping positive vibe. Thank you, Rachel! If you want to see more of her mastery, please visit her website and enjoy yourself! [Editor’s Note: Rachel is a contributor to Pain to Power Online Childbirth Class and a former member of the Orgasmic Birth Team (and still beloved) – we are grateful to her for all she has contributed to our organization and so proud that she is continuing to support healthy and happy MotherBabies.]