One year ago, after a trying week of pre-labor, Tiffany and Benjamin’s daughter was born in their home – her home. Despite being told that she should have had a C-section, Tiffany was determined to give birth naturally. “I am proof that birth works even when it doesn’t seem like it should. If my story can somehow empower future mamas to believe in your body’s capabilities, then I am more than happy to share this.”
It was Sunday September 27th, 2015 and I was a week overdue with my first child. That night there was a blood moon eclipse, and my husband and I went to a music festival in Vegas called “Life is Beautiful” (how fitting) to dance under the sky in hopes of inducing labor naturally. To our dismay, my high energy dance moves did nothing more then wear me out! If only I had foreseen how important rest and sleep were going to be in preparation for the week ahead…unfortunately my husband Benjamin and I had no idea…
On Monday afternoon my incredible midwife Tiffanie Gonzales came to our home to sweep my membranes with the intention of hopefully jump starting my labor. I was starting to worry that my dream water birth at home wasn’t going to happen if I stayed pregnant much longer. After Tiffanie examined me, she said I may feel some cramping, and sure enough that night I began to have menstrual type cramps.
By 6 am on Tuesday morning, I felt my first contraction, and that was the pivotal moment when my marathon of a labor began. My husband Benjamin and I were excited, and decided to walk around the neighborhood to help with my contractions. We purposely held off on letting anyone in our family know that I was in labor, because we wanted to wait until I was definitely in active labor.
Funny enough, most of our family and friends called or checked in that morning anyway, as if they had a sixth sense of what was taking place. Tuesday ended up being a long day because my contractions were happening every 8-10 minutes and would last 45 seconds each time. This went on for most of the day, but then suddenly the contractions would stop for an hour and I’d have a break. I was also bleeding, which Tiffanie reassured me was a good sign that my cervix was changing. I was feeling very optimistic and since the contractions were nothing that I couldn’t handle, Benjamin and I decided to distract ourselves and leave the house for a couple hours that evening. He went to play golf with a buddy, and I went over to a girlfriend’s house for dinner with my mom. All the while I timed my contractions on my phone.
After dinner, I left my friend’s house in good spirits thinking that I would meet my baby later that evening! It had been over twelve hours of pretty steady contractions, and I thought I must be getting close. Tiffanie suggested I have a glass of wine to help me fall asleep, but Ben and I didn’t have much luck as I couldn’t sleep for more than an hour before I’d wake up in excruciating pain. I didn’t realize that the fetal position I was trying to sleep in, was the reason I woke up with really intense contractions. Once again, at that point I had no idea that this position of side lying would end up both helping me and haunting me in the near future.
Later that night, my contractions intensified and I had to put all of my attention and concentration into them. We got the okay to call for the birthing tub to be delivered. It was “go time!” The tub was delivered and set up in our yoga room at 2:39 am. Benjamin set the tone for a beautiful birth. The water birth I had envisioned since the moment I discovered I was pregnant. We couldn’t wait to meet our daughter, and we wanted to welcome her into a soothing and calm environment. Candles were lit, soft music was playing, and snacks were prepared. I was alternating between birthing positions by pacing the hall, bouncing on the birthing ball, getting on my hands and knees, slow dancing and making out with Benjamin, all which seemed to be helping my body to open up. We worked through the rushes of contractions all night, and before we knew it, it was Wednesday morning.
Benjamin and I experienced much of the same on Wednesday, except that the contractions were harder to handle, as they would last over a minute and were happening more frequently. Tiffanie said my body must be trying to move baby into a better position, and that if I didn’t get into active labor by Thursday, I could start taking herbs and she would try stripping my membranes again.
I was also beginning to feel discouraged and tired, so I turned off my phone to disconnect and concentrate on the task at hand. I needed to live in the moment. I was paying close attention to baby’s movements, thinking that this must be hard on her too. On Wednesday evening Tiffanie came by the house to check on me. She felt our baby’s heartbeat and dropped off the herbs. Our daughter’s heartbeat was strong and steady as ever, and I focused on that to get me through. Tiffanie also examined me and said that I was 100% effaced and 6 cm dilated, and admitted to me that the first time she swept my membranes on Monday, I was only 50% effaced and not even 3 cm dilated. That sounded like progress to me!
Tiffanie told us to rest up. Needless to say, sleep never came that night, because as soon as I dozed off in fetal position, I woke up 20 minutes later frightened due to the sensations I was experiencing. I literally dropped out of bed onto the floor convulsing with unstoppable shakes in the middle of the night. The pain I felt was unbearable and I was suddenly freezing. I started crawling to the bathroom feeling disoriented and crying. It was the first time during the labor that I went into a dark place in my mind. I felt the urge to be put out of my misery. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was exhausted, and didn’t know what was happening to my body, and I felt so scared.
Benjamin rushed over to me with a pile of blankets and wrapped me up while trying to calm me down. I felt delirious and just wanted it all to end. I spent most of the night in the birthing tub so I could feel warm again. Having the warm water surround my body helped soothe me.
By 5 am on Thursday morning, when I was pacing the hall, my water broke! The gush was undeniable and it gave me a new sense of hope that I was in fact making progress! An hour later I took the herbs to help speed things up, and we had our acupuncturist come to the house to see if she could help. She gave me clary sage to rub on different points of my body and worked her needle magic.
The contractions were picking up and coming about 7 minutes apart and lasting over a minute and a half each time. Benjamin was keeping Tiffanie updated via phone. Now, when I read their text messages to each other, their words warm my heart; Benjamin: “Her breathing is strong, mind is strong, body is showing signs of exhaustion. Tiffanie: “I know she’s tired but she has what she will need to birth this precious girl. Hug her for me and tell her I will be seeing her soon.”
Tiffanie came again Thursday evening to check on me. She didn’t do a vaginal exam because my waters had ruptured, but I was able to up the amount of herbs I was taking. My spirits were sinking, although Benjamin was doing everything in his power to keep them high. He was also sleep deprived, but he never wavered. He was my rock. He was there for me through every contraction, every painful rush of sensation. That night, after four consistent hours of having contractions coming every five minutes, and lasting for over a minute, we called Tiffanie to let her know we made it to the 5-1-1 labor rule.
The first person to arrive at our home was Amy, a midwife in training and professional doula. We had gotten to know her over the course of my prenatal care, and we loved her sweet and positive vibe. She told us she dreamt about my labor and delivery, and in her dream my labor also started and stopped over and over again. However she assured me that I ended up giving birth in our home with Tiffanie by my side, and she saw our cute, healthy, wide eyed daughter. I was truly hoping that Amy was right! This was Ben’s and my third sleepless night, and I felt like I had checked out of my body to try and cope with the sleep deprivation.
The rushes were strong and relentless. I couldn’t seem to catch a break. I tried to visualize meeting my baby but started to doubt whether or not she was going to come. I knew I was losing it. Also, I didn’t want to be anywhere else but the tub because the hot water helped me cope with the pain, but it also fatigued me quickly and seemed to stop my contractions. Amy probably sensed my frustration so she encouraged me to insert my finger inside of me to feel my daughter’s head. I was nervous, because I didn’t know what to expect.
Questions circled my mind like; how far would I have to put my finger in, or what if I damaged her little head? I tried it while I was in the tub and was surprised by how close she was! I just couldn’t figure out why it was taking so long! I decided to trust the process and allowed the anticipation of meeting my baby to keep me feeling positive.
Early Friday morning, Benjamin, Amy and I took a short nap on our living room couches. Lying on my side however increased the pain so much that I couldn’t sleep. That was when Amy suggested I try the side lying position for a few contractions, and explained that although it will hurt, it will help turn the baby and move her down. I hated it, but I managed.
Tiffanie arrived later that morning, and wanted me to have Acupuncture again. Our Acupuncturist Angela had a peaceful way about her, and seeing her in our home with her 6 month old daughter, gave me some confidence. She could see how discouraged I was, as I explained my fear of the contractions pausing again. I later found out that Angela mentioned to Tiffanie that she thought it was going to be another long day. She was right. Acupuncture tired me out, so Tiffanie got Benjamin and I, to cuddle up for a catnap in our bed. She woke us up at 2pm. That’s when what I call the moment of truth “come to Jesus” conversation took place. Tiffanie looked me straight in the eye, and told me that I needed to get into active labor within the next two hours, or we would have to transfer to the hospital.
My biggest fear of being inadequate flooded my mind. I also felt guilty thinking that I was harming my baby, not to mention myself by being stubborn and trying to handle four days of labor without medical attention. I was terrified of medical intervention and having to get a C-section, so I asked Tiffanie what could I do to make this happen? She told me to go outside and walk up and down my stairs while doing lunges. I knew, that she knew how badly I wanted this home birth.
I turned to Ben and asked him to finally let our entire network of family and friends know that I was in labor. I needed support more than ever. I asked him to send out a prayer call. A good look at myself in the mirror put me into action. I told myself to open, and that my body was made for this. I then took my 42 week pregnant butt up and down those stairs with gumption.
Benjamin put on happy tropical dance music and I started to believe in myself once more. I would not be defeated. I found my courage and repeated the words “I am a woman and I am strong” over and over again. Finally I put myself into active labor…and for the first time, the contractions didn’t slow. It was tough, but I was excited to transition. My breathing became shallow as I fought through the rushes, and Tiffanie reminded me that if I don’t breathe deeply, our baby won’t get any air. I grasped onto Benjamin by draping my arms over him, and we stood there rocking and breathing together through every wave of building sensation.
All my efforts were paying off as Tiffanie mentioned she saw that baby was dropping. My mom had joined us at this time as well. Ben and I really wanted an intimate delivery for just the two of us to experience as this was our first born, but having my mom come at the very end was exactly what we needed. Considering what we had been through, her soft touch and soothing words made all the difference.
Benjamin finally got a bit of a break and had a chance to eat as well. All seemed well until Tiffanie wanted me to try the side lying position on the couch again, and I lost my mind. I immediately said no. She politely nudged my mom and Benjamin to make me do it, and I literally started begging them to not make me. I would try ANYTHING else but that. I was frantically shaking my head no and my mom says she saw a fierce look in my eyes pleading to stop this from happening.
If I sound dramatic, it’s because after every sensation I had felt during my entire labor, side lying was the only time I truly suffered. Pain comes and goes, and while the pain of a contraction is like nothing else I have ever known, it at least comes, builds up to a climax, and then subsides. Side lying Active Labor however, is still the reason I don’t know if could ever put myself through birth again. Words can’t describe the horror this birthing position put me through, and after 4 days of contractions, no sleep, no drugs and no baby…I just couldn’t handle suffering.
Unfortunately I did. I got it done kicking and screaming, but I got it done, and my mom and Benjamin got me through it. Afterwards, I desperately wanted to be in the tub again, so in I went. Shortly after I had the urge to push!!! I was elated! No one could tell because I looked and felt like death, but I was completely relieved to feel something different! I was close to meeting my daughter, and I put my finger inside once more to feel her head. It was soft, and right there! She was so close! Unfortunately I missed out on the first set of urges to push because I was still trying to breathe deeply through them. It wasn’t until I understood to hold my breath and bear down, that I was getting somewhere.
I preferred being on my knees and leaning over the edge of the tub searching Benjamin’s eyes for faith. He never let me down. He stared right back at me urging me on with positive affirmations, and his touch made me believe. After three pushes my daughters head was out! Tiffanie shone a flashlight on her and confirmed that her eyes were open and she had her little hand pressed to her head.
We all waited for what seemed like an eternity for me to have another urge to push. It didn’t come, so Tiffanie asked me to push anyway. I worried about my daughters head just hanging underwater without air, still stuck halfway inside of me, so with every last ounce of my energy, I pushed with all my might, and let out the loudest scream with it. At that moment, my life changed in an instant.
Our daughter Kenza was born with eyes wide open, and was lifted out of the water and immediately put on my chest for me to hold. I didn’t cry then because I was in shock that she was finally in my arms, and I was so relieved that she and I made it through this difficult journey together! I’m crying now however, as I relive how insanely magical it was to create life, give birth and then meet our child for the first time. Kenza Aria Zoldan came to us earth side at 11:04 pm on October 2nd. She was 7 lbs 9 oz. I too was reborn, but this time as a mother.
As far as my health goes, I had a few complications that only happened because of the length of time it took to deliver. Naturally the body will eventually give out when it has been so taxed. We also had no idea that Kenza was stuck because she had her hand presented above her head (nuchal hand) and her elbow was preventing her from coming out.
My little super girl was determined to come out hand first, however, after 4 days and what seemed like an endless labor, not to mention 42 hours after my water broke, I gave birth to my healthy and tough baby girl with her strong heartbeat and strong will.
I personally believe that Kenza is so alert and healthy, because I was able to give birth without any medical interventions, in the comfort of my home, surrounded by my loved ones who truly believed in me. It’s proof that birth works, even when all odds are against you. Birth works.
Written by Tiffany Zoldan @yoga_sass