First Time Parents
Baby boy (known), Oliver James
39w + 5
3.7kg, 53cm long
Gas & Air, Tens machine
43 hours from first contraction until birth
Birthing Center, Madrid, Spain)
Trigger warnings: long labor & talk of 1st-degree tear
I had a very smooth pregnancy and actually felt some gratitude towards this crazy situation (Covid). I normally travel a lot for work and was worried that my work travel schedule would create stress during my pregnancy. Since we had to be at home, I really slowed down, became more present, and even further connected with my husband during this special time in our lives. Up until little Oliver’s arrival, I stayed as active as possible walking, swimming, and practicing yoga.
I always had a feeling that our baby would arrive early because he moved so much (like he wanted to get out!), I had strong and frequent Braxton Hicks starting from week 20, and my husband Pablo and all of his siblings were born one month early. Therefore I made sure everything was well in order by week 37, including practicing hypnobirthing and meditation daily.
Saturday, August 22nd we went to our friend’s house outside of Madrid to have lunch and swim in their pool. They are also expecting a new family member and are just a few weeks behind us. After lunch we were sitting around talking and I all of a sudden felt really strange and then felt something in my underwear. I went to the bathroom and saw that I had lost my mucus plug. I was immediately excited and scared at the same time. He was coming! What I also had to remind myself of was that he could come today or he could still come in a few weeks. I continued to leak clear liquid so our midwife asked if I could come to the hospital to check and see if my water had broke. In the end, it was a false alarm and my water was still intact so we were sent home.
Sunday we just relaxed and hung out around the house. Monday morning at 9am I had to go process some important visa paperwork that I needed to do before Oliver arrived. Why I waited until the last second I don’t know! My contractions began as I waited in line and were coming at about one every 20 minutes pretty consistently. I thought okay this is what I’ve been waiting for! I called my husband and told him I’d be on my way home and that we better start to get ready!
I got home around noon, ate a huge bowl of pasta, and set myself up in our bed. I used the Freya App to track my contractions and listen to the positive affirmations. I put on my tens machine and was ready. At this point, the contractions were coming one every ten minutes. As the day went on, I started to transform our bedroom into the environment that we wanted. Lights off, blinds down, tea lights on, playlist on in the background. I found that putting lavender on a cotton ball and keeping it near my nose was really comforting.
**Up Stage of Labor**
At 8 pm the App was indicating that I was in established labor so we called our doula Yolanda and updated her on the situation. At this point, the contractions were coming every 3-4 minutes. She got to our house around 11 pm and she jumped in the bed with me. This was great cause it allowed Pablo to take a break. She then motivated me to get out of bed and start moving around. We went out on our terrace and started doing different positions during the contractions. Bending halfway over. Different yoga positions. She also followed me with all of my up breathing and animal-like sounds that I was making. (Poor neighbors!) Around 3 am, I had had enough and had a small breakdown crying that I wanted to go to the hospital. It had been a long day. So we got organized and headed out. Yolanda and I went in one taxi and Pablo in another. I remember the taxi driver being really wonderful and driving carefully for us but I also wanted to secretly scream GO FASTER!
We got to the midwife-led natural birthing center (One to One) which is attached to the hospital. I was so excited to finally be in that environment. The first thing they had to do was check to see how far along I was. I thought confidently that I would be at least 7cm dilated. I needed to be at least 5cm dilated in order to enter the birthing center. They did the check, 2cm! I could and couldn’t believe it. I have read how it happens to a lot of women but also I felt like gosh I did wait at home so long and we only got to 2cm. They gave us two options: 1) return home and come back when I was more advanced or 2) get admitted to the hospital and wait until I reach 5cm then transfer over to the natural birthing center. We used the hypnobirthing decision-making process and opted to get admitted to the hospital. I couldn’t bear thinking about going back in the taxi and going back home.
Due to Covid, our doula Yolanda couldn’t accompany us in the hospital room. I was disappointed but in retrospect, I now really value this one on one time with Pablo. I truly felt like a team and we worked together. We got into our room and Pablo immediately set up the environment and motivated me to move and promote gravity. This consisted of moments of rest but lots of dancing to funky music, hot showers, bouncing on the ball, light touch massages, motivating me with encouraging words. Honestly, without his support during this part of my labor, I highly doubt that I would have been able to make it to the end as I did. At this point, I started to go to a different place. I felt very connected with my body and was practicing as much serenity as possible. The contractions were continuing to come at every 3-4 minutes from when we entered the room around 5 am Tuesday until around 4 pm when they checked me again and I was at 5cm! Time to move to the natural birthing center!
I felt such peace to finally be in the natural birthing center in our room. Pablo re-setup the environment and we were met by Yolanda and our midwife Patricia (true angels). We turned up my playlist and they started to guide me on different positions and movements to get the labor moving along. Leaning over the bed, bouncing on the ball, pulling on the rope. After a few hours, they did another exam 7cm! We were making progress. I then got into the shower while sitting on the ball. Yolanda was giving me gas and air and then I really went to another place. I remember feeling such bad physical pain from the contractions but somehow I was at ease knowing that body was doing exactly what it was supposed to it. I felt a sense of trust and serenity that I have never before felt in my life.
I viewed the shower as the warm-up for the pool where I intended to give birth. After two hours in the shower, I got in the pool and it felt so good to float. My contractions were very frequent and strong, and after an hour or so I started not feeling so great. I now know this was likely my transition. I was feeling hot, I felt like I wanted to throw up and I felt some anxiety. I remember at one point just saying HELP! I decided that I wanted to get out of the pool. I was reminded by Patricia the midwife that this was really the last tool in the toolbox to help promote a natural labor but I was welcome to get out and get back in if I wanted. I think everyone was really exhausted at this point, mainly me.
** Down Stage of Labor **
As soon as I got out of the pool, my water finally broke! I felt a huge sense of relief physically and emotionally. I also had the immediate urge to push. For some strange reason, I insisted on putting the tens machine back on. I think it was psychological more than anything. Patricia guided me over to the rope and suggested that I hold on with my arms and go into a squatting position. I immediately thought of all of the times I’d practiced this position (malasana) during prenatal yoga to open up my hips. I never thought that it would be the position that I would give birth in. The pressure was very intense but the pain from the contractions had subsided. Patricia the midwife was facing me and guiding me when to push, Yolanda my doula was behind me with a small chair when I needed to rest, and Pablo was right next to us on the bed. I felt completely ready and supported to bring this baby into the world.
After about an hour of pushing, Little Oliver came into this world!! They immediately placed him on my chest and he cried and went straight for my breast. I have never felt such relief and love and excitement at the same time.
I had requested the oxytocin shot to help birth the placenta. The placenta came out about ten minutes later. I had a first-degree tear that required one stitch inside and two small stitches on the outside. There was also a small part of the placenta still inside so the doctor had to get it out. Given the urgency, she didn’t use any anesthesia for those procedures but I was so high from the oxytocin from the birth that I barely noticed it.
It was really important to me to try to have a birth with the least interventions as possible but never did I think it would be so long. I feel so grateful for hypnobirthing and the meditation I practiced leading up until the birth because it made me feel informed and trust my body. I found that reading positive birth stories really helped me prepare and I hope my story too can help some of you feel positive about your upcoming births.
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