Almost two months ago, my husband and I welcomed our son into the world. I was 41 weeks and two days pregnant when he was born. From the moment I found out we were expecting, I knew I wanted to inform myself as much as possible about all my options and prepare a birth plan.
It became essential to find a doctor and a midwife that would understand my fears, answer my questions, and respect my wishes.
No one can predict the kind of delivery you will have. Not even your doctor. Several different things can happen when you go into labor: from your body not producing enough oxytocin, to fetal distress, to the baby being breached, to name a few. You must make decisions based on what is best for you and your baby.
Knowledge Is Power
Each experience is unique. However, the more you know about what can happen during labor, the more empowered and comfortable, you will feel to make decisions.
I learned about the complications that can occur and the steps taken in different situations. All of this information made me feel I was better prepared. I was still nervous about giving birth, but I felt that by understanding the stages of pregnancy and labor, I would make the right choices for my child and me.
Giving birth does not have to be traumatic. I know it is for many women, and one of the reasons this happens is because their voices aren’t being heard. In some cases, even if you have done your research and have a birth plan, these might not be respected.
My story is not a horror story, which is why I feel the need to share it. I felt empowered when I went into labor. My wishes were respected the whole time. I was treated like a human being. My voice mattered. There was genuine concern for my well being. Every single doubt I had, even the questions I thought were stupid, were fully answered by my midwife and doctor. At all times, they made me feel that my desire to have a natural birth would be respected. They both wanted me to have a beautiful experience, and I did.
Going Into Labor
At my last appointment with my doctor, a Thursday afternoon, I was told I had dilated 3 cm, had high blood pressure, and irregular contractions. I was in early labor and was sent home. During this stage, the cervix begins to open. This stage can last from a few hours to a few days. In my case, this stage lasted days.
On Friday, I still went to the swimming pool and out for my daily walks. I needed to keep an eye on my blood pressure and wait for my contractions to increase in frequency and intensity before going back to the hospital.
On Sunday night, I didn’t feel well, but my blood pressure was fine. I couldn’t sleep and felt a bit anxious. Around 5 a.m. Monday, I woke my husband up and told him we needed to go to the hospital.
When we arrived, my blood pressure was high. My midwife came to check on me and told me to stay because I had dilated 4 cm. and I was at week 41.
The midwife told me they would let my body and the baby evolve naturally. My blood pressure and the baby’s heart rate were checked a few times throughout the day to make sure everything was going well.
Monday went by, and contractions remained about the same. Around 4 a.m., Tuesday, I woke up from painful and regular contractions. I began walking around the room and practiced breathing exercises. I was officially in active labor. Around 6 a.m., we called the nurse. The midwife on duty took a look at my progress and said I would be taken down to the pre-delivery room in a couple of hours. In the meantime, I took a shower and used the birthing ball to help me deal with the discomfort.
I had told my doctor I didn’t want an epidural. I intended to trust my body and have a natural birth (no interventions whatsoever). The truth is, no one can prepare you for this kind of pain, which only increases in intensity. I really believed I would be able to withstand it. I cried and held on to my husband’s arms with each contraction. I took deep breaths and tried to stay focused.
After my midwife checked on me, she told me that I was dilating very slowly (I was 6 cm after several hours). I wasn’t producing enough oxytocin, and the shape of my pelvis was going to make it difficult for my son to come out. She explained that I could be in labor well into the night.
Contractions are stressful for the baby, and I was in a lot of pain. It was my decision, and I agreed to both the oxytocin and epidural, which allowed me to move. It was the best decision I made.
I did feel some guilt and shame for asking for an epidural. A beautiful thing my midwife said to me was: “el parto es un acto de humildad” (childbirth is an act of humility). She went on to say that we need to surrender our ego and do what is best for ourselves and our baby. She told me to be proud of myself for what I was doing.
I'm grateful that I had options and that the decision was mine. Nothing was imposed on me before, during, or after giving birth.
At 2 p.m., I was taken to the delivery room. The doctor arrived and said everything was going well. My husband was on my left side and the midwife on my right, encouraging me. I pushed three times, and by the fourth push, my baby’s head was out. The doctor told us to extend our arms forward and grab him. We finished pulling him out! I immediately placed him on my naked chest.
After a bit, my husband cut the umbilical cord. Then, my son was separated from me for a brief moment to get his diaper on and his dosage of vitamin K.
(Vitamin K helps the blood to clot and prevents severe bleeding).
I felt a lot of love in that room. The nurses, doctor, and midwife congratulated us on our healthy baby boy and a job well done. After all, it is a team effort; baby, mom, and dad are all doing their part. I was grateful to the women who helped me in one of the most vulnerable, meaningful, and beautiful days of my life.
My baby and I did skin to skin for about two hours. Skin to skin releases hormones that relieve stress and help stabilize the baby’s temperature, breathing rate, blood sugar, and heart rate, among many other benefits.
The critical factor in my experience was respect. Before anything was done to my body, I was explained why or asked if that is what I wanted. I feel fortunate to have given birth on my own terms.
I realize my experience is a privileged one. But it shouldn’t be.
Too many women are victims of obstetric violence, both in the public and private sectors.
There are women whose needs and pain are disregarded, women who face verbal abuse or humiliation, women who are victims of invasive practices, physical violence, and unnecessary medication use. Minority women and refugees face discrimination and mistreatment at alarming numbers.
Women’s rights should be protected at one of the most vulnerable moments in their lives. This kind of violence must be reported. We must listen to women. We can support moms-to-be and new moms by believing them and educating those who are not aware of this kind of violence.
If you are about to become a mom, trust your instinct. Listen to your inner voice. If you are not okay with something, don’t be afraid to voice your concerns. If you can, have someone with you who will speak up for your rights and make sure that you, your child, and your wishes are being respected.
© Andrea Huls Pareja. All Rights Reserved.