I met Audrey on warm sunny afternoon this past spring. She was bubbly and friendly and I felt as though we immediately clicked. As we chatted more, she mentioned that she had thoughtfully chosen me, after hearing about the work that I do supporting those with a history of anxiety.
Audrey's previous birth with her first son, certainly fits the definition of birth trauma. Her anxiousness surrounding her pregnancy, birth, and feeding plan post birth, was certainly warranted.
On Thursday, September 14th, at 5:24am, I received a call from Audrey. I could hear it in her voice, that she was having contractions and feeling nervous. We decided that now would be a good time for me to head over to their home. It was a gorgeous morning and I was even lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the sunrise on my drive over.
When I got to their home, her contractions had slowed way down. I wasn't surprised, but Audrey and her husband Shane seemed disappointed. False alarms, often happen, but I discussed with them, that I did still think today could be the day. I believe the mind plays such a huge role in child birth. The contractions seemed to slow, when their 3.5 year old, Isaac, woke up for the morning, to start his day. My doula instincts told me that when he headed off to preschool, things could change.
I left them with instructions for the day, and coincidentally, she had an appointment already scheduled with her OB, for the afternoon, in which she had decided for a cervical check.
Around lunch time, Audrey reached out and told me that she was 4cm dilated, and that contractions were still coming, but they were far apart and were still very tolerable. I made plans for my children for the rest of the day.
My instincts were correct!
At 3:30pm Audrey called me, doubting herself a bit, but wanted to let me know that her contractions had gotten back into a pattern. I called her back 30 minutes later and this time, she couldn't talk to me through the contractions. I suggested that instead of coming to their house, we meet at the hospital. They were traveling to our local city hospital, which is often surrounded by traffic, just a bit later in the day. I figured that rather than being stuck in traffic in the second stage of labor, it might be best, to arrive a bit early and walk around in the area, prior to checking in. Audrey agreed that this would help keep her anxiety at bay.
We arrived to the hospital at the same time, just before 5pm. As she approached me, I knew (and so did everyone standing on the sidewalk!) that we wouldn't be walking around as we had discussed. Audrey was already low moaning and instinctively squatting through her contractions, which is usually a pretty good sign, that baby is getting closer to earth side.
Upon our arrival, Audrey was almost fully dilated. The panic started. I watched her eyes get big and her breathing change. I reminded her, that this meant nothing. With her last baby, there were lots of interventions, that weren't fully explained or maybe just not understood in the chaos that birth often creates. She even signed a cesarean consent at one point, before delivering vaginally without a real understanding of her situation. Things moved fast then too.
Her doctor began suggesting some things, this time again, too. Audrey looked at me for guidance, and I said for the first time, "You have time. No decision has to be made now. Take the time you need." She looked at the doctor and said, "I'm not ready yet."
We have this belief in birth that once you hit that magic number, you should start pushing. It's just not the case. There's often time, even at that point, to wait. Especially, if allows time to overcome anxiety.
5 more times, in the next 30 minutes, I reminded her that she had time, and she continued to ask for it, each time the doctor entered the room. I watched her anxiety lesson, her inner warrior begin to take over, and she became calm, cool and collected. At that point, she began making decisions for herself and then her body took over. Pushing didn't become a choice at that point.
Over the next 90 minutes, Audrey would do self guided pushing, but loved the team to cheer her on. She doubted herself at times, but her baby was right there, just molding and rocking his head to help his way out. She feared the vacuum would happen, but everyone in the space reassured her that she was moving her baby. Eventually, encouraging her to see him in the mirror, was just what she needed to get him under that bone.
Audrey had kept the name of their soon to be born baby a secret, but at that moment she looked at me, with her eyes filled with tears, and said, "We are going to call him Ezra." Shane and I both started crying with her. In just a few more pushes, we heard Ezra's tremendous cries for the first time.
I had just witnessed a woman, whose OB told her that she didn't believe she had the strength, pain tolerance, or ability to not give into her anxiety, to have a natural birth, exude the control and confidence unlike she ever had before.
I looked up at Shane who had tears streaming down his face, and then he said "You were just..oh my...I'm proud of you...you did it."
It was hard not to be overcome by the joyous emotions in the room. I had to step away and collect myself even. I never doubted her. It was an honor to witness such strength and determination and then to feel that moment of peace, come over the room.
Thank you Audrey, Shane, Isaac, and Ezra for allowing me to be part of such a momentous occassion for your family.