There’s a term you likely haven’t heard of. Largely because not enough people are talking…
Quickly, easily, and comfortably — according to most women, this trifecta of adverbs describes the “ideal” birth experience.
During my first pregnancy, my husband and I completed the Hypnobabies program. This method helped me train my mind the way an athlete trains for competition. My husband acted as my coach and I had the focus of an Olympian.
My event started seven days into labor and 41 weeks after I got pregnant.
Settled into our private and tranquil room at the birth center, I fell into a deep state of mental relaxation as pressure waves (contractions) came on strong every two minutes.
My first obstacle was back labor. No one was kidding about how much that hurts. Thankfully our magical nurse midwife, Emily knew what to do.
Did you know that using electric stimulation, like in physical therapy, can help counter the intensity of back labor? Neither did it, but it does!
It was time to push and I. Was. Ready.
Because of all of my training and my high caliber support system, I was convinced that we’d meet our daughter within minutes.
Four hours later, it was time to transfer to the hospital after doing all we could at the birth center.
I imagine this is how a figure skater feels when they realize they are NOT going to land the triple salchow.
But, I held onto my Hypnobabies zen (physically powered by adrenaline) as we drove to the hospital.
When we got there and I got to lay down on the hospital bed I realized just how exhausted I was.
I literally saw double from the four hours of pushing.
The hospital was nothing like the birthing center, but I took comfort knowing that I now had all of the support I needed to safely deliver this baby into the world.
I was given an IV for energy and an epidural to relax so that I could continue pushing.
The IV kicked in and I felt re-energized. The epidural created space for my body to relax.
I may not have landed my salchow, but I was back up on my feet and getting my momentum to nail the rest of the routine.
The doctors were ready for a c-section.
I am forever grateful to Emily who advocated for me and my determination to continue with a vaginal birth.
We were taken to the OR just in case. The doctors tried the vacuum twice with no success. Forceps were up next.
Feeling like my chance of landing my triple axel were slipping away, my determination to push my baby out quadrupled. I knew we could do this.
She and I were in this together.
With the unwavering support from Emily and my husband whispering, “I love you. You are so doing so great” into my ear as he held my hand.
I pushed like I’ve never pushed before with energy that I didn’t have.
Barely grazed by the forceps, I delivered our baby girl into the world.
I had nailed my triple axel.
It was the biggest, most beautiful relief of my life.
This was soon followed by a brutal recovery.
All of the pushing, the fear, the questioning, more pushing, the vacuum, seeing the forceps left me feeling like I had been hit by a mack truck.
I still had blurry vision from the straining.
I had been completely torn apart. Literally and figuratively.
I asked how many stitches I’d received and the answer was “so many it’s not worth counting”. It took nearly six weeks to be able to stand up and move around awkwardly.
I was devastated.
Nothing about my birth experience had been what I wanted or how I planned.
I had pictured the serene birth center. She would be born quickly, easily, and comfortably.
The ideal trifecta.
Even thinking that was possible now felt like a sick joke.
Time passed, I healed, and we decided to grow our family once again.
I credit my disciplined training and what I learned through Hypnobirthing class to my ability to stay focused mentally during my traumatic birth and deliver my daughter vaginally.
I knew I could harness that power and have a different experience this time.
My new focus was being centered with my entire being. Mind, body, and spirit.
I trained once again like Carol Heiss heading back to the Olympics after winning the silver medal in 1956 and determined to win Gold in 1960.
During a three hour family walk around our neighborhood, I felt my second baby girl drop like a bowling ball in my pelvis announcing that she’d be arriving soon.
My water broke and I felt a rush of anticipation.
I kept reminding myself that this is a new experience. This birth is different. It’s not my first. I’ve never birthed this baby before.
Before heading to the birth center we went out for the best burger in town. I needed fuel for the big event. It tasted better than I remembered. I could my body taking in the energy I would need to deliver my second baby girl.
We sat outside in the perfect spring evening air relishing these last moments as a family of three. I ate while standing and pacing around, feeling the pressure waves get deeper and stronger.
Everything already felt completely different from last time.
I embraced that newness. All three of us walked to the birth center and got settled in our room. Which happened to be the same room from four years prior, where I pushed for four hours before transferring to the hospital.
Emily, remember her? She was our midwife from four years ago? She was on duty and ready to help us birth our second baby girl.
It felt like everything was lining up perfectly. This was meant to be.
To conserve energy as the pressure waves got stronger, deeper, and closer I rested on my side on the cozy bed.
Our daughter was with me and gave me kisses, rubbed my arms and back, showed me and her little sister so much love before her grandparents picked her up for the night.
I loved her touch. It was as if, somehow, her four year old spirit was comforting my nerves around giving her a little sister. The excitement and the fear of taking away her only child status.
She left and I knew it was time to start pushing because it felt like I had to take a huge poop.
I really did have to poop but as soon as I sat down, I asked Emily if she could “come catch my baby!”
Emily rushed over to confirm that yes, she could feel the head, and that yes…I was pooping. I thanked her for the help and apologized for the poop.
(To all the mamas reading this, there is no need to apologize for the poop. Your life is about to be filled with poop and pooping during birth is a common part of the process.)
That’s when my body took over. Moving and releasing. It felt so fluid, unforced, and empowering. I don’t think I actually pushed?
Within minutes my body delivered our baby.
As I brought Nicola up to my chest I was euphoric. I couldn’t believe how it just happened. So quickly, easily, and comfortably.
The trifecta. I had landed the triple salchow.
My recovery followed suit.
I was lucky to have my first baby safely. To be torn in two and live to tell the tale.
The second time I used what I learned to train smarter, not harder, and have a different experience.
The experience I had always wanted. My Olympic victory.
And while childbirth and figure skating don’t really have so much in common, I do believe that every single woman who births a child is an Olympian.
Written by Ana Maria Munoz