Zoe & Juniper's birth story


First off, I should say, that I have made a career out of birth. I have studied it, I have witnessed many women journey through it, and I have read many a book that has tried to put a formula or pattern to this grand event. I have coached women through what the difference is between ‘pain’ and ‘suffering’ and I have studied under a birth guru that has tried to deconstruct my rigid thinking around it. I have seen many well prepared women buckle under the weight of the process, and many unprepared women breeze through it.

As I approached this day, I realised that all my knowledge, though it could serve my mind, could never have prepared me for this experience. Just like I could never prepare any women for her birth, as much I would love to wear that badge. Birthing is something a women has to do alone, and when it is all over, she has to look back and own it, no matter the method or the outcome.

I had been experiencing some practice labour for a few days, surges were coming closer and closer and though I was about 10 days from due date (a very loose term in my world) I knew that it was close. I was feeling very tight and crampy and generally uncomfortable. My parents had just flown in, and the day after they arrived I slept the entire day. Something was up. 

It was, as is often the case, early hours of the morning around 2 a.m on the 15th of March when I started to feel the niggles of pre labour. The surges consistently came, wave after wave and at 5a.m I realised that this could be the real thing. I knew I was a long way off yet but I let my mum and sisters know so they could be ready. 

We had made an intentional decision not to find out the gender of our baby. Much to everyone’s frustration we really wanted to be surprised. But I had a deep premonition that she was going to be a girl, and I had even written about it days earlier. What made it so interesting is that all of the females in my family, unintentionally came dressed in florals. We laughed about it and wondered if this could perhaps be a sign.
I tried to ignore the surges for a while and I had a mixture of excitement and anticipation. They were still manageable but definitely not ones I could sleep through, though I tried.  At 4 a.m I got up and made a cup of tea and chatted to one of my best friends in the States who is also a doula. This was it. 

Soon they were getting quite intense and I woke Sean up and called my (large) support team. Sean called stayed home from work and my team arrived around 5:30am, equipped with food, and props and all sorts of helpful things.

At one point at the beginning of labour, when one strong surge came, I just cried. I cried because it hurt, and I had been praying for a painless labour, I cried because I knew what was to come. I knew how long it might take, I knew what the hospital rooms smelled like, I knew the procedures, and the tools. I knew it all, and all of this knowledge was playing like flash cards in my head. I came face to face with all my hidden fears. I could feel the collective anxiety of those around me, willing for me to have my “perfect birth”. This was my first fear; what if I, as a doula, didn’t have my “perfect” birth. What if I just couldn’t do it naturally, the way I wanted to. I didn’t realise how much the weight of my own expectation was slowing down my labour until after my baby was born. Ash helped me to relax my body and not fight the surges and I felt more in control. 

I continued to labour at home, I had pillows propped up all around me, and surges kept getting more and more intense. I was being fed and music was playing in the background, Sean squeezed my hips and that seemed like the only thing that was really helping. I knew how sore his arms must be. Later someone fetched a hot water bottle and it felt like a piece of heaven being placed on my back.

Some hours later the surges were coming on and off at various intervals and lasting various times, labour seemed not to be established yet. My doula and mentor Divya was close by and decided to pop in and assess the situation. It was so lovely to see her face. I’d worked with her for years and it was funny to be on the receiving end of her care. She stayed for a little while, and suggested a ‘lift and tuck’ to perhaps help baby get into a more optimal position. When she left mum worked through a few contractions with me while lifting my tummy up and in with a shawl. I didn’t want to do it but was glad I did because just like the surges got more regular.

At some point over the next hour or so, Ash (my sister) decided it was time for us to go to the hospital and I was grateful for her decisiveness. I wasn’t really fussed either way and knew that I could come back if I wasn’t yet in active labour. We bundled ourselves into the car and had a few painful contraction in the 5 minute drive there. When we arrived I had arranged to meet Divya there and get assessed. After a bit of back and forth I found myself in the chair I’d watched many women deliver in, getting an internal exam. I knew all the doctors and nursing staff as a Doula, and now they were excited that it was my turn. All my fears about being at the hospital dissolved when I saw Divya and it truly felt like I was amongst family at the hospital. The doctor announced that I was 3cm dilated and 80% effaced. Instead of being discouraged I knew this was positive news. I knew that anything could happen from here on out. So I decided to stay.

My mood changed completely and as I relaxed my labour grew more intense. Without even checking in to the hospital, we just took a corner of it, made it dim and I laboured in peace just with Sean and Divya. At some point Dad came to give me apples and orange juice and introduced himself to Divya. He prayed and I felt so much peace. Contractions were definitely intense, but at some point Sean made a joke and all three of us got the giggles. Laughing during a contraction is no funny business but I just could not stop. For a little while I felt so much deep joy and I couldn’t contain it.

At some point my dad came in telling me he’d arranged for us to be shifted to a better room and relief swept through my body. It was such a gift to have my family around arranging everything around us so that we could just focus. We decided shortly after to go up to the water because it seemed like things were progressing.

As soon as I stepped into that tub my whole body relaxed. It was so beautiful, all that water around me, so warm and comforting. The most hilarious part of this whole thing was my family, coming in and out, introducing themselves one by one to Divya, dad came in to hold my hand while my mom clicked pictures loudly in the background. At one point my brother came in to say hi, and during a surge I was making loud animal noises and I could just feel him laughing in the background without even hearing him, I pointed at him behind me and said ‘get out’. He burst out the door and later told me he nervous laughed all the way down the stairs. My family, is quite something.

Then, things weren’t so funny. I was hitting a wall, labour wasn’t seeming to progress once again, and I felt like it was going to last forever. I forgot about the hustle and bustle of everything around me and needed desperately to focus. Family filtered out and it was just Sean, Divya  and I, alone with the uncertainty of time, and the lack of control, and all of our thoughts and emotions. Divya suggested that I get out of the tub for a change of scenery and to try a new position. I went to the toilet and suddenly felt this deep urge to push. That’s when something shifted, I was no longer in control, I had to surrender to my body. I couldn’t hear or see or smell or feel. I was just a body and I was doing my function of birthing. Divya coached me through some helpful positions and I put my trust completely in her suggestions, Sean whispered comfort and strength into my ears. I at some point let go of all the “shoulds” and just became a birthing women, doing what I was made to do. I was assessed again by a junior doctor who read the numbers wrong and fought discouragement, but I knew from the sound of my voice that my baby was close. Doctor Urvashi came in and did another assessment and found that I still needed more time because of a cervical lip. I heard later that they expected it to be another few hours and I am so grateful they didn’t tell me that. Divya got them all to clear out and said she’d call when we were ready. We did a few contractions on hands and knees and it was unbelievably intense, wave after wave was taking over my body and I had to fight with every part of me the urge to push. Suddenly my water came bursting out of me like the cork on a champagne bottle. The doctors and nurses came rushing in. I was ready.

What came next changed my life. And it brings tears to my eyes every time I think of it. As I was pushing, (I was in squatting position, with Divya on one side and Sean on the other), for the first time in my life, I wasn’t using my head, I was accessing something much deeper than myself. I was not in control and that was the most blissful feeling I have had to date. Everyone around me respected my need for silence. Everyone let me do what I knew instinctively to do. There wasn’t a sound except for soothing music playing in the background. And I pushed. That moment was the single most empowering moment of my life. It was a completely out of body experience and at the same time I was 100% present. Whenever I need to draw strength from somewhere I go back to that moment. I thank God every time I think about it, that I was allowed to go through the pain of labour, and experience the victory at the end, to feel in my bones what it feels like to come face to face with ever fear and still overcome. I thank God that no one tried to take that experience away from me. A few big pushes later and only a very minor tear, my baby girl was placed on my chest. And I knew immediately that it was worth it, and that for her, I would do that over and over again.

{Images by Sean Tuckey @seantux}

Birth StoryCarmen Lett