Mama Jessica shares her experience on how to prepare yourselves for the birth you vision. Jessica attended our online antenatal classes to help her achieve her best birth. Shared with permission of Jessica Mendes via Guided Space.
Before and during my pregnancy I really enjoyed reading and hearing about other women’s birth stories for inspiration and advice so I thought I’d share my birth story in hopes of inspiring anyone else. Though everyone’s birth story and experience is completely different from the other, there’s always something new you can learn that can help you in your experience.
From day one, I wanted a natural vaginal labor, medicinal free, and a holistic experience. I don’t necessarily mean a water birth or with a doula. Although I did have that in mind, I couldn’t resist the care of being in a hospital in case something went wrong in my situation because of some stories I’d heard. I just wanted to have a more soothing, holistic experience with music and calming birth affirmations as much as I could while in a hospital setting. I took an online holistic antenatal class via Empowered Parenthood and it really helped me feel more relaxed and knowledged on birthing and breastfeeding. I learned that I could give birth in different positions as opposed to the typical lie on your back position and learned many techniques on labor to help prepare my mindset for anything that could happen. I also researched A LOT about breastfeeding which was very crucial for me and even wrote a blog post on my breastfeeding experience so far after the first month to help future mamas. One year later and I’m still breastfeeding. :)
From week 28 or so, Camila was already in the anterior position which is the "ideal" position for giving birth vaginally. It’s where the baby’s head is down in the cervix canal and facing your back. I was very excited but also nervous that she could turn around again, but luckily she didn’t!
One thing I hadn’t heard about and was not prepared for was the pain of cervical checks for dilation. I went to the hospital on July 3rd thinking I was going into labor because my contractions were pretty bad. When the doctor checked my cervix for dilation which I thought was just a normal, simple painless procedure, I literally screamed so much from excruciating pain that my husband heard me down the hall in the waiting room. I instantly had tears coming down my face and asked the doctor wtf she was doing to me. Not kidding. She looked at me like I needed to calm down as if it was no big deal and asked why I was screaming. Calm down?! It felt like she was stabbing the hell out of me with a knife! I thought if I can’t handle a cervical check, how am I going to handle labor?! It turns out some women experience more pain during this process than others due to sensitivity but I can assure you it’s not the same pain as labor at all. Not every woman feels this way during cervical checks, but I’m one of the women who do apparently. The doctor said I wasn’t ready at all yet and told me to come back on July 13th unless my contractions were 5 minutes apart for about one minute each for an hour or 10 minutes apart for 2 hours. I was so bummed because I didn’t want to wait that long. My dad came to visit us on July 2nd and was only here for two weeks. I wanted him to meet his first grand baby and get to spend some time with her.
Looking back at the pain I had leading up to the day of delivery, I’m pretty sure I had prodromal labor because I was having regular contractions for a few hours here and there for a few days and it was getting so exhausting dealing with the pain and the never ending waiting game for this baby to show. Because the contractions weren’t 5 minutes apart or less and not staying for more than 2 hours at a time I had to wait to go to the hospital until they were more consistent and deal with daily pain until I knew it was time.
The big question people want to know is “How do you know when it’s time to go to the hospital and when it’s a false alarm?” My answer: Time your contractions religiously! I used one of my many pregnancy apps (Either Flo or Ovia) to track my contractions, and when they were between 5-10 minutes apart for two hours, getting stronger, and closer together I knew it was time.
The next morning at 9:30am, I started having regular contractions. It was my birthday, July 4th, yes the big 4th of July, and I’m thinking “Omg yay! I could have a birthday baby!” but then I’d think “Omg are we seriously going to share birthdays? What if we hate that?” But in reality, I wanted her to be born on my birthday. I waited two hours and was still having regular contractions and also ended up bleeding a little when I went to the restroom so that was my final cue to go. We left around 12pm and I was pretty calm and collected. My husband and I grabbed our bags and left. My water hadn’t broken yet so I didn’t feel panicky because I knew this could take a while.
When we arrived at the hospital, the nurses monitored my contractions and they were regular but still no dilation at all. It was so annoying because they hurt like hell but we had to wait until I dilated… And yes I had to get those dreadful cervical checks every so often for dilation, but I told them to be gentle every time and they got better at it each time.
I waited in the waiting room with my husband but I was getting antsy with the pain just waiting around doing nothing so we grabbed a meal in the cafeteria all while I was trying to breathe through my contractions and fighting through the tears. We went back to the maternity dept at around 6pm and I told them I couldn’t handle the pain of contractions anymore. They told me to take a shower to relax. Didn’t work. Then they checked me again and I was about 2-3 cm dilated. Because I was dilating very slowly, they gave me an injection for the pain of the contractions to see if they were real birth contractions or not because I wasn't dilating and to see if it would help relax me and make me dilate. It barely worked.
I continued having regular contractions and finally dilated just a little so they put me in the labor room. I was so relieved about this because I was beyond ready to have this baby. Two midwife nurses came in and started prepping me and the room for labor. They asked if I was going to get the epidural. I was shaking not knowing what I wanted because I was in pain but felt maybe it was bearable so I could go all natural. They kept convincing me that it’s not worth being in pain when I can just enjoy it. They also said I could have the weak epidural to where I could walk around so my legs wouldn’t be numb. That to me seemed reasonable but I was so indecisive I wanted my husband in the room with me to help me decide but for some reason they wouldn’t allow him in there yet. Then around 8pm was when the anaesthesiologist came to see if I wanted the epidural and administer it. This is now 11 hours after the contractions first started that morning.
I have to say out of all the doctors and nurses I faced the days I stayed at the hospital, the anaesthesiologist was the absolute WORST. Before you get scared about the actual epidural itself, that was not the issue at all. The doctor came in and asked if I wanted the epidural and told me about the risks. I was very hesitant and indecisive because I wanted the all natural birthing experience and was scared about getting paralyzed or having permanent back problems down the road. I know the doctors are experienced but he said it himself, it happens. I thought I could maybe handle the labor pain, but when he told me the pain only gets worse the more I dilate and the fact that I had only dilated 3 cm and was in enough pain as it was, I told myself it’s not worth making my birth experience a crappy one when I can be more relaxed. I then requested the epidural that lets me walk around and move. This is where it gets bad. Because I was shaking from the pain and nerves I could not fully control my body and the doctor got so angry with me while trying to inject the epidural. He kept yelling, not telling, YELLING at me to lower my head so he could find the perfect spot on my spine to inject. This was not making it any easier for me to calm my nerves, so I asked if I could play some music to help me relax because I literally couldn’t and tried so hard, and he sternly told me no because he doesn’t like music. It was terrible. Luckily I had a nurse there in front of me to hold my hand and remind me to breathe through it all. I don’t remember feeling any pain while he injected the epidural. I just remember feeling something a little chilly but that was it and then I just kept getting worried I would accidentally pull on it if I laid wrong on it but all was fine.
Moving on, the midwife came and broke my water and gave me another injection at midnight to help me dilate. I believe it was oxytocin / Pitocin because it worked wonders. I slept till 2am and at 2:30 the midwife came in and told me I was fully dilated.
I was a bit sad when I realized it was no longer the 4th of July in Portugal which meant she wouldn’t be born on my birthday but I knew she would still be the best birthday gift ever and technically in the US, it was still the 4th of July and she would be born around the time fireworks were going off.
It was around 2:45am and the midwife asked me to push whenever I was ready but I couldn't feel my legs so it was hard to push. I asked her to decrease the epidural and I began pushing as soon as I could feel my legs more.
I began pushing around 3am and asked the midwife if I could get in the squatting position and have music playing in the background and she said yes. I was so relieved because it was exactly how I wanted my delivery to be. I had Joe start my delivery playlist on Spotify and the first song that played was “My Girl” from The Temptations, which to me was perfect because I couldn’t wait to meet my little girl. I said “ok let’s do this!” It felt like background music to a movie. I was really happy and in the moment and so grateful that I had the best midwife ever. She told me she could see my baby’s head and that it was covered in hair. I asked if I could touch it and she let me! It was such an incredible feeling to be able to experience that and just be so comfortable pushing while squatting and not feeling any pain at all but still feeling in control. I remember feeling at peace for a bit and asking Archangel Michael and Rafael to surround me with their love and protection and guide me in this experience and make me feel their warmth. I truly felt something special. The power of breathing and mindfulness works like a champ when you remember to use it.
However, I lost focus and my legs were eventually giving up on me after pushing in the squatting position for about 15-20 minutes so I thought I could lay back for a bit to rest and go back to squatting position after, but I put my legs up on the leg rests and began pushing again. I honestly feel like I shouldn’t have done that, because after I laid down was when it really started to hurt. I feel that if I continued squatting, gravity would naturally do its thing and make the delivery go a lot smoother.
I think either because I had requested to ease off the epidural or because I laid down on my back, I started to feel every contraction again but this time 1,000 times worse just like the anaesthesiologist said, and I had to push with each contraction but that was what hurt the most. The insides of my belly felt like they were being ripped apart. I’ve asked other women about this feeling and so far no one has said they felt that except one girl that shared the post delivery room with me and I think my cousin. Most women talk about the ring of fire which I thought was in the vaginal area, but I felt a ring of fire inside the womb. Maybe it’s the same thing? Anyway, I almost gave up in that moment. I honestly felt like I was going to die because of the excruciating pain. It was so bad that I was crying hysterically saying I couldn’t anymore, which made Joe cry. I looked at him and his face was in tears, voice cracking telling me I could do this and repeating birth affirmations even though he hated seeing me in so much pain. When I saw I was making him cry I remember thinking, “no, I’m not making my husband cry” so I tried harder because I didn’t want to give up on him. I pushed for about 2-5 minutes of that excruciating pain but it felt like it was never ending.
I have to admit it’s a bitch when you can’t feel like you can push anymore. You’re pushing so hard and in so much pain and feeling like nothing is progressing. The midwife asked if she could give me a small episiotomy because her head would not come through at all. I said yes right away and I didn’t feel a thing. Didn’t feel her cut me nor the stitches afterwards. All I felt was slight pressure. It’s amazing how as soon as her head came out I could feel the difference in having to push and then her body just easily slid right out. The moment I felt her come out was a relief and I instantly reached my arms out for her and basically thought “just give me my baby.”
Meeting Camila for the First Time
Camila was born in Faro, Portugal on July 5, 2018 at 3:43am weighing at 2.810 kilos / 6.2 lbs. She was so tiny to me and I really thought she’d be bigger but she was perfect and healthy. I didn’t cry right away like most moms do. I thought I would because I’m one of the most emotional, sentimental people I know. Instead, I was very serious and taking it all in, making sure she was okay and admiring how she looked. Everything else around me was a blur. She was the only thing I was focused on, but the moment I realized what song was playing on in the background, that’s when I cried, because let’s face it, hearing the words “Home is wherever I’m with you” while seeing my baby for the first time was the perfect way for me to start my life with her. She was so alert, staring right at me. I know she can’t actually see me, but she knew I was her mom because she calmed with me as soon as the nurse took her to weigh her and gave her back to me. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever laid eyes on, hair all over her head and her tiny little arms and back. I was in shock because I had never seen that before but she was my gorgeous beam of light. People always told me love for a child is unconditional and unlike any other kind of love. I never knew a love so strong could exist but it does and it did the moment I met her. I love her more and more each day. Would I do it all over again? In a heartbeat. <3
I hope you enjoyed my story. Please feel free to share your comments below or ask me any questions on anything you’d like to know more about. Maybe you related to it or maybe it gave you insight on what to prepare for on your delivery or gave you inspiration somehow. I’d love to know your thoughts. :)
If you'd like to see a video of some moments of the delivery, feel free to check out the video below.