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  • Melissa Duenas Mama Warrior Doula

"This birth doesn't have to be like the last one."

4 and half years ago I met a woman named Monica. She was honest, upfront, hysterical, and didn't take anyone's bs. We were both managing newborns, older children, and had similiar family lifestyles. Needless to say, we became fast friends.

When she called me to tell me she was pregnant, I was elated. She asked me if I could come and talk with her and her husband about their birthing options. This time around, she wanted something different for her birth. Monica didn't have terrible experiences previously, but this time she craved a peaceful, intervention-less, and unmedicated birth. She wanted a home birth, and her husband, Bryan, needed an extra little push, to be on board.

When I arrived at their home, he had lots of GREAT questions. He wanted to know what prenatal care looked like with a home birth midwife, what did the labor and birth look like in their home, what happened in the event of an emergency, did the midwives carry tons of equipment, what kind of emergencies had I seen at home births, was it covered by insurance, what was the cost, who were the midwives in our state, what were their qualifications, what would happen to their two older daughters during the birth, he asked me about my experiences attending home births and what my role would look like in supporting him and Monica.

At first the conversation seemed like this wasn't even a consideration for Bryan, but as we continued to talk, and he gained more education on the topic, I started to see him soften to the idea. For all of those reading this who are thinking, "Who cares what he thinks? It's her body! CHAAAAARGE!", Monica cared what he thought. She wanted him to be on board with her choices. She wanted his support. She wanted this to be their choice.

For two hours we went through tons of details and all of the providers available to them in our state. Eventually they would go on to meet a couple of the midwives and settled on their provider. Bryan felt confident in THEIR decision, and the planning of their home birth began.

Monica was centered and calm during her pregnancy. She had told me in conversations that she was feeling the least anxious that she ever had during a pregnancy. We talked often in the beginning but as time went on, and she felt more and more confident, our times chatting about her pregnancy became less and less.

On Thursday afternoon, Monica let me know that she had been having some contractions, and that they were starting to take her breath away a little bit. I left the office and headed to her house just to check on her. When I arrived she was having contractions about 3 minutes apart, but their intensity didn't seem quite where it needed to be.

Bryan eventually came home from work, but was joking with Monica that he should have stayed and worked overtime. Monica's previous labor had started in a similar fashion, and it went on for days and days. I could tell that every time Bryan brought this up, Monica was taking it to heart. Eventually, she said, "Bryan stop it! This birth doesn't have to be like the last one!" He apologized right away.

The midwife came to also check Monica. Third babies can be tricky and she just wanted to verify what was going on and if she should stay in the area or head home after just attending a birth.

When they went upstairs, I talked to Bryan. I reminded him that she was trying to have a baby for the first time without an epidural or hospital support and the thought of going on like this for days, was making her feel anxious. He lowered his head, "Oh gosh, I didn't even think of that. I was just teasing her. I won't say that anymore. She can do this." When they came back down they communicated that Monica's cervix was still fully closed and had not started to dilate. It was 3:30pm.

I had told him that I thought her actual labor would begin overnight and that I couldn't guarantee that, but I had a feeling (I have no crystal ball and my intuition can certainly be wrong, so I would never communicate that to a pregnant person, but I needed Bryan to realize it was important for him to stick around the house.) Monica had been having some bloody show since that morning.

Eventually her contractions puttered out, but I took this time to help her family setup her birth tub, verify that they had all of their supplies, help to find a sink that would connect to the tub hoses (that took awhile!) and a few other tasks to prepare. Monica's mother had arrived as well and was a big help. She would be helping with Monica's two other children during the labor and birth in their home.

When I left, her birthing place was ready for whenever and whatever was to come.

On Friday morning at 2:50am, less than 12 hours after I had left their home, I received a text from Monica:

"Can't sleep. 2 minutes apart and lasting about a minute."

At 2:55am "Getting up now. Felt a little gush. Going to see what that was."

After a bit of chatter, I asked for her to send me a picture of her pad. We texted continuously for about a hour. During that time, I was getting showered and packing up my things. I arrived to her home at 4:20am.

Monica was absolutely, without a doubt, in active labor. I threw down my things and began to apply counter pressure as she walked around the house, moaning. I verified that Bryan had called everyone that he needed to. I messaged Victoria Brown, their birth photographer. (from here all photos were taken by Victoria Brown Photography)

At 5am, Monica was upset the tub wasn't filled yet, so I began to help Bryan find a quicker way to fill it.

Monica looked at me with panic in her eyes and told me that she was beginning to feel a bit "transition-y". It was 5:30am and the midwives had not arrived yet, but were on their way. I talked to Monica and helped to remind her that even if she was in transition, even if the baby was coming, that it wouldn't change anything for her.

She took a deep breath and got into the water. The tub wasn't full yet, or warm, but she was sweating. The bit of water that was in their helped to cool her down.

Monica used me as her focal point. I spoke to her through every contraction, reminded her how strong she was, and helped her to become aware of when her uterus was softening and she would get a break.

Monica started to involuntarily push. I had Bryan call back out to the midwives and I began to set their table up for delivery. They confirmed they were less than 10 minutes away.

One of the midwives arrived and I was very happy to see her. She checked on the baby, who sounded great, and Monica then went right back into the rhythm that she had created.

The lead midwife arrived just a few minutes later. After awhile of pushing, Monica asked if she was going to have to go the the hospital. We all smiled and reassured her. Monica was handling her labor extremely well. So many laboring people are often stuck in self doubt during this time, and there was certainly no reason for that in the case of Monica.

The midwife did decide to check Monica's cervix though after a few more pushes to give her some solid answers to where she was in the process. There was a bit of a cervical lip in the way of baby's head, and the midwife helped Monica to get it out of the way. Then Monica hopped back into the tub.

Monica was insanely powerful. She stopped using me as her focal point, and I began to support her head, rub her hair, and whisper to her how wonderful she was doing. The midwife was concerned about the temperature of the water. It wasn't quite 96 degrees, and she had been mentioning that she may not want Monica to deliver in the water. Bryan knew how important that was to her and began to add as much hot water to the tub as possible, boiling pots everywhere, so that she could stay in.

A few pushes later, I watched the midwives smile. "This baby has a lot of hair!". Monica, almost in a disbelieving questioning tone, "You can see my baby?!". I then heard a bunch of little voices and looked back over my shoulder. Monica's two daughters were sitting on the stairs with their grandmother, watching intently.

I helped to lift Monica's bum up a bit, off the bottom of the tub floor and two pushes later, her absolutely beautiful, chunky, little boy, Axel, arrived earth side at 7:06am.

My eyes were welled up as usual, but it's always a little bit sweeter when it's a friend. I had to hold myself together actually and eventually stepped outside to weep for her. I couldn't have been anymore proud of my friend. She had done it! This thing that she desired for so long, she finally accomplished, in her home, surrounded by her family.

The girls came running down the stairs and her four year old exclaimed, "He is just so cute!". This little boy was then fawned over, hugged kissed, and held by his sister and father for the rest of my stay.

Olivia, Monica's oldest daughter yelled "Meeeee!", when the midwife asked who wanted to cut the cord. She then waited patiently for her turn to hold him, never asking, but waiting until her mother noticed her eagerness. She then also asked for the midwife to give her a placenta tour! She's a doula in the making!

There's nothing more to say, than I love this family and will feel forever connected to them for so graciously giving me the honor of being with them during this momentous occasion.

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