My dear friends,
Childbirth has been one of the most profound experiences within my life. Contrary to the fear-inducing stories you may have heard about labor and delivery, I actually had a different childbirth experience. Being able to bring children into this world through the Sacrament of Marriage is a gift God gives to us. Pregnancy, labor, and delivery can come with a lot of fear of the unknown. On top of that it seems that our society has created childbirth to be this terrible, awful experience. I thought that I would share my labor and delivery story in the hopes that it will encourage other mothers who are looking forward to meeting their little ones through natural childbirth with no interventions (provided there are no complications).
Before I begin I would like to say that not all births are ideal and sometimes emergencies do occur. I would have been willing to do whatever needed to be done for the safety of my child. I do not write this post to judge the choices of other mothers and their birth experiences. Through the grace of God we as mothers and fathers ultimately know what is best for our child. God leads the parents to make certain choices during labor and delivery in order to do His will. Your child and childbirth experience are unique to you and your child. God is good and through the Sacrament of Marriage He gifts couples with the miracle of receiving children. No matter how labor and delivery occurs we must keep this truth in mind! With this aside I would like to begin my labor and delivery story while I was still pregnant with Gianna.
I must be a contradiction to our culture because I honestly loved being pregnant! Watching my body grow to accommodate my little daughter was wonder-filled and miraculous to me. I was so thankful that God had blessed Adam and I with a child. I would constantly remind myself that just as Jesus said, “This is my body which is given for you” (Luke 22:19) I too was giving myself, body included, to the Lord. He allowed me to be a vessel for His creation growing within me. The love of Adam and I held within my womb and brought about through God’s Almighty Providence. Through the total consecration according to St. Louis Marie de Montfort I have given my entire self, body and soul, to Jesus through Mary. They desired that I be married and receive the gift of my little daughter. Society will tell you that you cannot risk the image of your body to pregnancy and how much your body will change after childbirth. However, every ache, discomfort, and change within my body took on an entirely different meaning. I am thankful for all the ways my body shifted in order to accommodate life growing within me. I could admit that I love my body more than ever because now I will always have the imprint of my daughter marked within me.
As I endured the discomforts and sacrifices that go along with pregnancy I knew that after 40 weeks or so it would all be worth it to have my little one in my arms. The Scripture verse, “when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world” (John 16:21) is completely true. I had never quite understood joy in suffering until I became pregnant. How the little discomforts of pregnancy and childbirth would bring about the ultimate joy and reward of a new child whom I already loved. These sufferings seemed so little to me and gave me joy to endure them. I knew that by enduring these sufferings I would be able to hold my own child within my arms at the end of it all. It reminded me of Jesus suffering on the cross. How He knew that after this suffering all of His children would be redeemed. I even meditated on the sufferings we endure throughout life and how on the other side of Heaven I am sure that we will forget our sufferings here on earth. They will seem so minor compared to the great joy to be with God in Heaven for all eternity. In fact we will probably rejoice in the sufferings that God has given to us here on earth! Our time here on earth is so short compared to the ultimate joy of seeing God Face to face. How could I not have joy while suffering especially during pregnancy and childbirth?
One thing that gave me complete peace during my pregnancy was consecrating Gianna to Jesus through Mary soon after Adam and I discovered that God had gifted us with our child. I knew that no matter what happened our baby was consecrated to Jesus through Mary and everything would be alright. I strongly encourage others to do the same!
Everyday I anticipated meeting our little baby. I prayed for Gianna constantly and was reminded of her every moment as she dwelt under my heart. Imagining her within my womb hearing my voice and heartbeat must have been so reassuring for her to come to know. How this must have been a comfort for Jesus in the womb of Mary as well. My relationship with Mary deepened as now I understood more personally and intimately the gift of motherhood. Gianna’s estimated due date was around the end of June. I awaited her arrival each day leading up to her due date and then just like that her due date passed. Gianna arrived a week and one day “late.” My mother told me that she went into labor with me a week and one day “late” as well. I was not nervous at all. I knew that Gianna would come when she was ready. I was actually anticipating her birth to be after her due date as many first time mothers tend to go past their due dates.
While I was pregnant with Gianna I went to daily Mass at every chance I could. The day before I went into labor I had gone to daily Mass and noticed one of my friends was there as well. She had four children at the time and waited for me after Mass. We were talking about labor and delivery when she mentioned that she prayed Hail Mary’s during her contractions. She encouraged me to do the same. To be honest this was the most helpful piece of advice I had been given!
The night before Gianna’s birthday Adam and I had dinner together as usual. I was putting the dishes into the dishwasher when I felt an interesting muscle-like cramp in my inner thigh. I had no idea this was pregnancy related and tried to stretch and walk it off. I didn’t think too much of it. My doula later told me that some women experience these cramps when in labor. Since I had been getting cramps in my calf muscles while I was pregnant I thought this was related to that.
Adam and I went to bed soon after we tidied up our home, brushed our teeth, and finished our regular bedtime routine, which was around 10pm. We fell asleep right away. About two hours later I woke up. I remember distinctly seeing the outline of our Blessed Mother and she was glowing. It was almost as if she was a light – a beautiful, comforting, loving light. Then right after I saw our Blessed Mother I felt my very first contraction. I had no idea what it would feel like. For some reason I thought that a contraction would feel like something completely unhuman, foreign, and like a pain that would be inflicted upon me. I imagined a contraction to feel like some outside force that would take control of my body causing an immense amount of pain. However, it felt human and natural, as God had designed it for the woman’s body. It reminded me of a feeling similar to a menstrual cramp. I was surprised because I thought I had not experienced Braxton Hicks my entire pregnancy. However, I had been feeling Braxton Hicks for a few weeks beforehand and didn’t even realize it. After I felt my first contraction I glanced at the clock, which read 11:58pm. I had only slept for about two hours.
I was still unsure if this was the real thing, which I am sure many first time mothers wonder. Then I experienced the same sensation again. I was excited and couldn’t wait to tell Adam. I nudged my husband and told him this is it! I think I am going into labor! I had about six contractions from midnight to 1am. I tried to sleep as our doula encouraged me to do so but it was very difficult. I was too excited and even if I tried to drift to sleep the contractions would wake me up. At about 2am I could no longer lie down.
We called our doula and she answered her phone right away. She encouraged me to try to rest. She also said she would be there as soon as we were ready. I had mentioned that I still wasn’t sure if this was the real thing, because as I said before I did not think contractions would feel the way they did. The contractions seemed to occur at a steady pace yet each one only lasted about 30 seconds to a minute.
Adam helped me the entire time tracking my contractions, encouraging me, and making sure I was taken care of with water and nourishment. I sat on my birth ball or walked around during this time. At about 4am our doula started heading over and arrived soon after. She checked in on me and had me try all kinds of different techniques to help my body as well as my baby prepare for delivery. Some of these techniques included hip squeezes and back presses. She also used the Robozo, a Mexican scarf, to help aid my labor. I did not think I would like a single one of these techniques before I went into labor, but I was actually thankful for them during my labor itself. Each technique had a reliving feeling and seemed to loosen any tension I was holding in my stomach.
Our doula taught Adam how to do the hip squeezes and he helped me with this technique while I was in labor. Leaning over any surface really helped me as well. After some time we called the midwife to notify her that I was in labor. I was absolutely elated because the midwife I had gotten to know the most answered the phone. She was going to be the one to deliver my baby! She said to stay at home and keep in contact with her as labor progressed. She seemed to have this wisdom as to when exactly I should come in. We continued to labor at home and by about 11:30am I was yawning a lot and felt pretty tired. I had only had two hours of sleep!
My doula told me to try to rest and take a nap, which I was shocked to hear these words during labor. However, Adam and I took a nap as well as our doula who slept on our couch. We were able to nap for about a half an hour or so. My contractions slowed down quite a bit during this time so I could recuperate. I was thankful that I got a few more minutes of sleep.
I woke up from a more powerful contraction and I could not fall back asleep after that. I woke Adam up and we continued to labor at home. Eventually the birth ball was not comfortable for me to sit on anymore. Walking and leaning over the counter or sofa was the most comfortable. The contractions picked up and around 4pm we called the midwife again. After Adam spoke with her on the phone describing my progress she suggested that we meet her at 5:30pm at the birth center. My doula and Adam continued to take turns with the hip squeezes. I continued to walk around and lean over the counter as well.
During this entire time of laboring at home I was praying Hail Mary’s during each contraction. As I said before this was extremely comforting and gave a profound meaning to my labor. Around 5:30pm Adam got the car ready for us to leave for the birth center. We put a towel down on my seat just in case my water would break. As I got into the car I immediately started to relax and meditate on a few images I had been practicing with before labor. I surprisingly barely felt my contractions during our car ride and worked with my body. We made it to the birth center and the midwife checked to see how far along my labor was. She told me that I was 5-6 centimeters dilated! This is good news to hear when you get to the birth center! I was so happy! She kept saying good work and mentioned how well I was dilating. I was hoping to hear this news, which is why I had been eating almost a million dates per day. Dates are suppose to help with dilation. I guess all those dates paid off!
Once we got into the birth room I thought that I would try the birthing tub. I changed into a swimsuit and climbed in. The water was quite warm and as I sat in the tub it was surreal to watch my stomach tightening and then releasing. Adam went behind me and rubbed my arms as I relaxed. Our doula poured water on my tummy. We played Gregorian chant as I sat in the water and labored. This helped to recenter me and relax my body reminding me that Jesus, Mary, and all of Heaven were there with us. Eventually the water cooled and the contractions didn’t seem any different being in or out of the water. We drained some of the water and filled it with more warm water, which helped. The midwife also asked if I wanted something to drink. She suggested coconut water and I thought that sounded amazingly refreshing. I developed a newfound love for coconut water while in labor. It was the best tasting thing to me at that time! Once the tub was full it was too warm for me to be in and I was sweating. I got out of the tub and decided to walk around again.
I was still praying Hail Mary’s during my contractions, which consoled me a great amount and gave me an extreme amount of trust and peace. I continued walking around the room as the midwives would periodically check on me. I would also lean over the counter. Adam and I had brought our marriage crucifix along and Adam placed it before me as I was leaning over the counter. This helped me so much as this was one of the images I would meditate on when it came to my labor and delivery! The contractions continued to get stronger and stronger.
My doula mentioned that I should make an “ooo” sound and this helped a lot. This “ooo” sound is like “moo” but without the “m.” I was about 8-10cm dilated and was still smiling at my doula, midwife, and husband. One of the midwives helping thought that I was not as far along as I actually was. I guarantee it was all the prayers and grace that kept me smiling!
All I wanted to do by that point was lay down. I leaned over the birth ball and this was uncomfortable. The contractions had also become quite powerful. My midwife came in and had me lay down. The last two contractions were pretty strong and our midwife talked me through each one. I suddenly felt a strong urge to push, which I voiced aloud. My midwife had me sit on the toilet as she figured my water was about to break. Adam was in front of me giving me words of encouragement. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pushed a few times. As I pushed I heard water pour into the toilet. My water broke! After this I said that I wanted to try the birth stool (something I never thought I would do).
Adam again sat in front of me and I leaned towards him wrapping my arms around his neck. His face was right next to mine as he talked to me and continued encouraging me. He told me to relax and not to tighten up, especially my pelvic floor muscles. He also reminded me of my breathing and to breathe through each push. After a few times of breathing and pushing Adam was ready to catch Gianna. I felt her come out all at once with water and other fluids. I was reminded of the prayer, “O blood and water which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus!” I heard Gianna cry as Adam handed her to me saying, “It’s a girl!” Adam and I did not find out whether we would be having a boy or a girl during my pregnancy. What a fun surprise this was to find out we were given a little daughter! As I laid down with Gianna on my chest and Adam by my side all the pain was forgotten.
I was extremely peaceful and joyful. It felt almost as if I had gone into ecstasy due to how much joy and peace I experienced. I stared at our daughter with sheer joy. I gazed into my husband’s eyes with a new deep and profound love. Adam cut Gianna’s umbilical cord and she was moving quite a bit while she laid on my chest. It was an absolutely profound experience. I honestly cannot wait to experience the gift of labor and delivery again when God wills for us to receive another child. As I said before John 16:21 describing joy after the anguish of childbirth was true. I do not remember the pain. All of the discomforts, aches, and pains of labor were so worth it to hold little Gianna and see her face to face. As I said before, it was a profound experience where I discovered joy within the suffering of childbirth.
Since I could continue writing more about Gianna’s labor and delivery I thought that I would write another blog post regarding further labor and delivery prayers and tips. Prayer was the most helpful thing during my preparation for labor and delivery as well as when I was actually in labor. I had certain images, prayers, and thoughts that were very helpful during labor. Though if I included them all in this post I am afraid it would be too long. That is why I wanted to dedicate a specific post for these things. I hope that my labor and delivery story encourages you. It can be done, through God’s grace! If you did not realize this yourself my labor lasted for 23 hours, yet I would not have changed a single moment of it! What an experience it is when you deliver your child naturally uniting yourself to Christ’s suffering AND joy!