Ada Violet Damghani was born around noon on Sunday Dec. 21. at the Women’s Birth and Wellness Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It is a freestanding birth center that has 5 midwives.
I woke up around 7:30 in quite a bit of pain, with regular contractions coming 5 minutes apart. We realized around 8:30 that I was definitely in labor this time (I’d had a lot of false starts) but it’s hard to tell how far along you are while you are in labor, at least for me.
I called our birth center and the midwife said that I didn’t sound like I was too far along and to just relax a little for a few hours and keep them posted.
This was what my doula told me the first time I was in labor with my older daughter Azita, and I progressed rapidly. With her, I was in labor all day, as many women are, but they were slow, mild contractions and the painful contractions, similar to what I was feeling the morning of Ada’s birth, began around midnight. That was when I called the doula and was told to wait it out.
My water broke at 2 a.m., I immediately began transitioning (I only know this now, looking back at my behavior), arrived at the hospital at 3 a.m. and Azita was born at 3:23.
So based on this, rather than the midwife’s initial advice, we decided that we needed to leave soon because the birth center was an hour and a half to two hours away, depending on traffic.
I told her we would walk around Chapel Hill and if we had to spend the day laboring in public places it was worth the peace of mind to us.
We were very paranoid about not making it to birth center but I was unwilling to return to the hospital near my home, or any hospital for that matter, for my second child.
Approaching childbirth with a positive mind means letting go of what you cannot control. I had to admit to myself that I was afraid of giving birth in a car, or in a rushed, panicky atmosphere, as almost happened with Azita or in a hospital that didn’t respect my wishes. I had to let go of the fear of too fast a birth and choose a relaxing, nurturing environment at a freestanding birth center.
So anyway, we began driving up to Chapel Hill and my husband remarkably got there in an hour and ten minutes! It may have helped that there wasn’t much traffic, being Christmastime and the university students having gone home.
I continued to keep the birth center informed of my status, but as a room wasn’t ready for me yet, and I was handling the contractions well, we decided to stop at a place called Foster’s market where my toddler and husband could get some decent food and I got a honey and fruit smoothie to give me energy for the birth.
Looking back, I can’t believe I was in such a public place when I was to give birth in 30 minutes. Just as with Azita, it was hard to tell that I was really so far along as I was. I had tiny urges to push, but nothing like what I would have expected based on how Azi’s birth felt. With her, the desire to push was overwhelming.
When I called the birth center I remained calm. The contractions were coming quickly and hurt a lot but I was handling them quite well. I made myself breathe and relax.
For the two hours in the car and at the market, between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., my contractions would range from 5 to 6 minutes apart and be bearable with some deep breathing and relaxation for two or three in a row.
Then they would get quite intense and come 2 to 3 minutes apart. Then they’d slow down. Then they’d speed up. It was like I was almost there but then my body would back off.
And I think that this is why, the moment I saw my midwife’s face, after we left Foster’s and went to the birth center, I felt the most painful contractions– the most painful moments– of my life and immediately was ready to push.
There is a very real connection between mind and body. Once my body knew I was in a safe place, it stopped weaving in and out of strong contractions and was ready to give birth.
I know that had we gotten to the birth center sooner, I would have given birth sooner. Its just how it is. My body waited on me to feel safe.
It was also waiting for my toddler to be playing in the waiting room with my mother. Just outside the door of the birth center, I began to whimper in the middle of a contraction and my daughter began to cry. I immediately took ahold of myself, thus I think her presence was slowing down my labor too.
I’m proud of myself and how I handled the pain until my midwife, Jewell, walked in the room. I developed several coping techniques on the drive and felt in control (as much as you can be when your body is really the one in control) and relaxed during some significant pains.
This is a contrast to how I felt I handled my first birth, when I was completely panicky from the pain and the startling surprise that I needed to hightail it to the hospital or else have my baby in my home or car. Homebirth would be great, but not an unplanned one for my husband to deliver.
My caregivers have told me after both of my births that homebirth would be a great option for me.
So I was handling and coping well. But when Jewell came in, the contraction that I felt made me completely lose it. Three contractions came one on top of the other, and I’d never felt anything like that during my first birth or up until that point.
I honestly believe that because my body had been holding back on having the baby until I was safe that I either dilated a few centimeters in a matter of moments with those contractions or they at least pushed the baby farther down very quickly.
I had never experience any burning with Azita’s birth, and the intense burning, which many women call the ‘ring of fire’, coupled with those mind-boggling final contractions, was something I could never have prepared myself for.
I have never freaked out like that— and that seems an understatement. I let out a scream that I can’t even believe came from me. You’d think someone was murdering me from what I can tell I must have sounded like.
I wondered if Azita had heard me and was upset. That probably didn’t help me to focus on what I was supposed to be doing.
I was lying on my back on the bed and my husband, the midwife, and nurse were all there, speaking calmly, asking me if I wanted to change positions.
They were calm but I was drawing within myself, in a way that was not productive. It was like everyone was speaking Greek and my mind was retreating into itself, because I was completely unable to cope with that amount of pain. Azita’s birth was fast and intense, but not overwhelming.
I was breathing raggedly, trying to control it to make the pain go away, trying to make sense of the midwife telling me that turning on my side might ease the pain. Which I knew, intellectually, was completely true. Every contraction I’ve ever felt while lying flat on my back was much worse than in another position.
I couldn’t do anything but sit there and stare through my husbands face—I was looking at him but unable to focus.
I couldn’t cope with moving, pushing or anything I was being asked to do. In my mind at the time, this lasted an eternity. In reality, the midwife told me my “freakout”, as I think of it, lasted about 5 minutes. I finally remembered that the only way to make the pain stop would be to push out the baby.
It helped that I got the midwife I like the best. I told my husband earlier that week that she would be my first choice. She remains incredibly calm and soothing even when you are screaming your head off, which I like. I don’t want someone telling me what to do, but gentle guidance is okay. I needed to find my own way and bring myself back into what I needed to do, and she let that happen.
And then the nurse, Ellen, reminded me to push ‘like you’re going to the bathroom’, and that was concrete enough for me to wrap my freaking out little head around!
The pain of course didn’t go away immediately, but after about ten minutes of pushing, Ada Violet was born.
I was calm, she was calm, laying on my chest, the intensity of the birth over with.
I got to hold her while the midwife did one small stitch, and, thanks to some perineal massage while pushing, which at the time I did not appreciate at all, I am sitting here at 6 days postpartum walking normally and feeling like my body will be back to its old self in a week or two.
Who doesn’t want that after 9 long months of pregnancy?
No one took her away from me for hours after the birth and it was perfect. It was nothing like a hospital birth.
It was exactly as I wanted.
A book on childbirth and pain that I read while pregnant cited a study which found that a woman’s satisfaction with her birth was not necessarily related to how she rated her pain. Many women who used epidurals reported high dissatisfaction with their birthing experience, while many who used no pain medications reported high levels of satisfaction.
This I can fully understand. After Azita’s birth, I swore I’d never do it again. It was stressful and I felt traumatized and afraid to give birth again.
After Ada’s birth, with worse pain so that I completely lost it, I feel that I could endure a natural childbirth again without reservations.
And it all has to do with the environment of the birth and my caregivers, not the pain.