Sunday, September 25, 2011

Remembering Rafael's All Natural Labor and Birth

I'm sorry for having been so absent; unfortunately it was for health reasons. I was doing so horribly (fever, sweating, aching limbs, and waves of pain in my lower abdomen) that I went to the hospital, where they diagnosed me with Endometritis, an inflammation of the uterus which can occur after a long labor and must be taken very seriously. If left untreated, it can lead to blood poisoning and infertility. I've been given antibiotics and am resting as much as possible; not easy with a hungry newborn! So it's been a difficult start, but Ramon is such a helpful, loving father and husband, and I'm already feeling much better.

I've written this in the spare moments I've had throughout these past few days. I want to not only share my experience of a natural birth with all who are interested, but record my memory of this extraordinary part of my life so I never forget it.

It was Wednesday morning, September 14th, at 10 o'clock, and the weather had changed from sunny and hot to overcast and cold. I had asked the midwife recently if it was true that a lot of babies were born on full moon, and she had that, in her experience, it was more likely for babies to come on days when there was a drastic change in the weather. But I wasn't thinking about that. Ramon had left for a business meeting in Vienna and I was in the kitchen, opening a little present of baby clothing from my mother-in-law. Suddenly there was a small gush of fluid between my legs. I remember pausing, confused, and then exclaiming "Oh!" The dogs looked at me. I stood there, frozen for a moment, taking in the realization that my water had broke. I was going to have my baby!

After cleaning up and putting on a pad (water was still running out once in a while) I called my midwife. She told me that it could still take a while for contractions to start, but that she was sending her colleague to check on me. I then called Ramon, who was riding the subway, and told him the news. I said he should go ahead with his meeting, there was still plenty of time (when the men at the meeting heard that my water had broke, they quickly sent him on his way home!).  I called my mother-in-law and asked her to walk the dogs for me.

The midwife came and had a look at me. "You're only open to a 2. Eat something with a lot of cinnamon and cloves to get the contractions started. Rest and gather strength. It's going to be a long day and night."

When my mother-in-law returned, we stood in the kitchen, peeling and cutting apples for a compote. It was surreal, standing there, talking, cooking, when in the back of my mind I knew that these were the final hours before meeting my son. I ate a big serving of heavily spiced compote and my contractions began shortly afterwards, though mild at first; they felt like period cramps.

Ramon got home just as my contractions started getting stronger. My mother-in-law left us and we spent a couple of hours wandering around the apartment and the terrace, or resting in bed, timing my contractions and talking. I took a warm bath. When my contractions were 10 minutes apart, Ramon called our midwife. I was excited, thinking that we were getting close, and that we could head to the birth center soon. But Monika, our midwife, who came to check up on me, said that we should be patient. I was only between 3 and 4 centimeters open now, and we should call her again when my contractions were 2 minutes apart for 1 hour. It was discouraging, but what could I do? Monika left and we were on our own again.

The day progressed into night, and finally my contractions got stronger. Ramon ran a second bath for me. By now the contractions were very intense, and coming every two minutes. Ramon and I had been in labor alone together for about 9 hours now. My contractions suddenly got extremely intense while I was in the bath, coming over me seemingly constantly. I began panicking. I told Ramon to call the ambulance, we had to get to the birth center right away. I was sure the baby was close to coming, and was scared of having him at home.

I couldn't get out of the bath or get dressed on my own. I was  shivering uncontrollably and began sobbing. Ramon called the ambulance and helped me out of the tub. He dressed me and got our birth bag and car seat ready. I was a total wreck, shaking and crying, when the paramedics came. They strapped me onto the gurney and wheeled me out to the ambulance. Ramon sat next to me in the back. The ride was the bumpiest I've ever taken, and the young paramedic kept asking Ramon if I was alright, and if he was sure we didn't want to go to the hospital. I was screaming and sobbing with each contraction, and each bump in the road was horrific. We finally arrived at the birth center, and when they wheeled me into the birthing room, the warmth and scent of aromatherapy oils was a bit of a comfort. My eyes had been closed this entire time, and I only opened them when Ramon had undressed me and Monika suggested I get into the birthing tub.

After some contractions in the tub, she asked me to lay down on the bed so she could check my dilation. She waited for the next contraction and probed with her fingers, which was really painful, but I was sure she would have good news. "You're at five centimeters, half way there."

I thought the world was going to end. "Half way there?!" I screamed. "I can't do this! I can't anymore!"

What followed were what felt like endless hours of pain, interspersed with me trying my hardest to just 'survive' the contractions, going into different positions, walking when I could, drinking water, having oils rubbed on my stomach, squatting, screaming, crying, getting into the tub again, leaning on Ramon in a sitting or standing position, sobbing that I couldn't do it anymore, and saying lots of "Please God! Please God! Help me!" One time Monika placed some homeopathic suppositories inside of me to help soften the cervix, and two other times she placed homeopathic globulis under my tongue for strength. I couldn't help wishing for real drugs, something I never thought I would hope for or consider.

At that point I was completely delirious with pain and exhaustion. Ramon, the midwife, and her assistant came and went, but I hardly noticed who was in the room or wasn't. I felt so alone in my pain. I was thinking, "This is torture. It won't stop. How will I ever do this? When will it ever end?" I really felt like my life was coming to an end. I know that sounds dramatic, but I truly felt at the very limit of my strength and life force.

I began feeling the urge to press when I had a contraction. I knew that sometimes the body told you to press before it was actually ready, but I didn't care. When I felt the urge, I pressed a little. Still, even with this sign of progression, I was so discouraged by how long this was all taking that I didn't really believe I could be nearing the end.

Monika invited me to sit on the birthing stool, which is shaped like a half donut. Ramon sat behind me on the foot of the bed, supporting my back and arms with his chest and legs. Monika and her assistant sat in front of me. The contractions came in constant waves, and with each one, I got about three presses in. The pressing was incredibly tiring, but I was determined, even though, again, I truly didn't believe there was an end in sight. I think I had even sort of forgotten that there was a baby on the just felt like I was in pain for no good reason.

Pearls of sweat were pouring out of me all over as I pushed and pushed, feeling like my life depended on it. I dug my hands into Ramon's legs and pressed my feet into the ground. Now, with each press, there was a burning and stretching sensation, but I didn't 'feel' a head or object, so I didn't know how far along I was. At some point Monika said, "Each time you push, I can see a little bit of his head." This made me both angry (because I wanted her to say the head was already out) and determined ("A head! I'm having a baby! I forgot! That's why I'm doing this!").

I pushed a few more times, the stretching and burning getting more extreme, and then, suddenly, there was a slippery sensation, and Monika was holding up a little body to me! Rafael had been born, at 3:05 AM on September 15th, after 16 hours of labor. He was clean and rosy, with lots of black hair slicked onto his dome-shaped head. I took him in my arms, in total shock and awe. I'm not sure exactly, but I think my first words were, "My baby! My little boy!"

Monika invited us to get into bed. I stood up, holding Rafael, and I could feel the umbilical cord between my legs. We were still connected. Ramon got into bed with us, and we lay there for a few moments, just looking at this tiny red wriggling little being. When the cord stopped pulsating, Monika clamped it in two places and Ramon cut it.

Then the midwife told me I would have to push again to get the placenta out. "Are you kidding me?" I said. I had forgotten all about pain and pushing, and now I would have to get back into it. Ramon took Rafael onto his bare chest so I could concentrate. I pushed and pushed, but nothing happened. "Your bladder is too full, we'll have to empty it with a catheter." I said "No way! I'll try to empty it myself. I don't want a catheter put it!" So I pushed, but nothing was coming out. Monika pressed on my bladder and sort of forced it all out, which was a very strange sensation. Eventually, with one strong push from me, a passed what felt like a big wet pillow, and my placenta was out.

I had torn one centimeter, but refused to be sewn. I was sure it would heal on its own and didn't want anymore pain.

We lay with Rafael between us, admiring him, while Monika filled out papers. Eventually we dressed Raffi, got dressed ourselves, and called a taxi. We thanked our midwife and hopped into the cab, leaving the birth house about an hour after giving birth.

What a journey!

And it's just beginning...


  1. Sitting here alone in a new city and feeling a bit depressed and then reading this and at the end I let out a little laugh and then started crying. Such a lovely little story Dawn...despite all the pain...just shows you got to push on through it all because good things can come at the end. So happy for you! (and thanks, now I think if I ever get pregnant I may need those drugs...!) xxx

  2. Darling Dawn...a wonderful story...the story of how your little Raffi entered the world! You certainly went through a lot. I'm so glad that you're feeling better and are hopefully through all the pain now, It will soon be a distant memory (until next time :-) Please give your son a special kiss from me...and smell the back of his neck, my favourite place on a tiny baby. Sending love to the whole family!! xoxo Rachel

  3. Wow!! All 3 of my births were fairly quick and medicated, so thankful for that! Thank you for sharing this, I look forward to all baby updates!!

  4. You can be very proud of yourself!
    I come from Holland and a lot of women there even give birth at home. Here in Luxembourg having an epidural is not unusual, but I thought I wouldn't need one. Well, to make a long story short...I had one the first time and I had one the second time and it made labor and birth so much easier and relaxing. The epidural was done by the gynaecologist and I could still feel the contractions, but they just didn't hurt.
    And then I had my 3rd and 4th child, but they were adopted. There was also a lot of labor involved, but it was different and my husband could do more than just hold my hand.
    Happy recovery!

  5. Dear Dawn ~ What a birthing story with a wonderful picture of you and little Raffi at the end. You are in my thoughts and prayers for a swift recovery. May your strength be regained with each new day.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

  6. All the work was well worth it when you look at your adorable son. Congratulations and may the Lord shower blessings on you always!
    Rose L.

  7. Oh my dear Dawn...what a terrible birth you had to go through...BUT isn't God amazing? How soon we forget..when we hold those precious babies in our arms! I'm so glad that you are healing and feeling better as time goes by....

    My blessings and prayers are with you and your family during this joyful time!

  8. wow, that is a powerful description of your birth. i felt like i was there! well done Dawn, you went through a lot to birth your little boy, and i'm sure it was worth it, but you'll probably never forget the whole experience!

  9. Thanks for sharing your birth story Dawn. My labour was very similar, and even though I had attended many births, and knew that labours were as hard as could be imagined and then a bit more.... I was still shocked when it happened to me, and to accept that my 15 hour labor was spot on for a normal first birth!
    So sorry to hear of your infection now. Take care, I hope you recover well and quickly!
    Kiss Rafael's soft little cheek for me!

  10. You are on a great journey with your darling new born son, and I pray for a quick healing for you.

  11. Dear Dawn, I'm so glad to read that you are feeling much better now. What a hard time you've had! You are such a good mother, going through all of that pain so that your little boy would be born without the help of drugs.
    Thinking of you all as you start this wonderful journey of parenthood.

  12. oh dawn..what an experience...but look at you and that sweet baby !!!!

    sending love to you and your family


  13. Oh Dawn, you should be very proud of your self, because you did a marvelous job! And no pain killers, wow is all I can say. I know you won't believe me when I say this, but one day you will forget all the pain you endured in labor, just in time to go thru it again for number two :) Rafael is such a gorgeous baby. I'm glad you are feeling better now, very scary thing you just went through with the endometritis. Take all the time to rest and nurture your little man.

    Best Wishes,


  14. Dear Dawn,
    I'm so glad to hear you're on the mend. I loved reading your birth story. It's such a magical experience in all its challenge and beauty. Much love to you and your family.
    Big hugs,

  15. That was awesome! Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing such an amazing story. I'm so glad that you are on the mend and that you are getting help through the healing. I'll be sending your family warm thoughts from California!


  16. What wonderful writer you are Dawn bringing your experiences so close into my heart.
    So sorry about the rest rest and rebuild after the antibiotics with good bacteria and more rest.
    So happy to come see you so soon.

  17. Bless you Dawn, and your sweet family. Mom's all have their birth stories and now you have yours - and it's an amazing one! I'm so sorry for your recent illness, and pray you feel stronger and healthier every day.

  18. Hi Dawn,

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Even though I find it a bit scary I always like to read other people's birth experiences as I feel it will prepare me a little for when my husband and I decide to start our family.
    I love the last photo, the look of indescribable joy on your face is beautiful and Raffael looks so content!
    Hope you recover soon, you are in my thoughts. xx

  19. Dear Dawn,
    thank you for your honest birth story! You can be very, very proud of yourself for going through this wonderful, but still very painful experience. And all without medication.
    You did it!

    Your story shows me, that you can never be fully prepared for what is coming along with a birth process. We are also planing a natural birth for our little one (arriving in 1-2 weeks), but we'll see ...
    Right now I just hope that I'm strong enough - like you!

    Get well soon and all the best for the 3 of you

  20. Thank you for sharing your very personal story with us Dawn and I hope I can take strength from your story when my baby day arrives in a few weeks. I don't think anything can truly prepare us for that first labour experience.
    Hope your infection is better soon and that you are able to rest and recover in between beautiful moments like the one in your last photo.
    You are one amazing lady -who I admire greatly even more now after reading this post.

  21. wow, that was an exhausting story! lol! i cannot believe that you got up and left after that! you are one amazing woman! hugs! t

  22. brava bravissima, every birth is a special story, I'm sure you'll never forget, this is why women are so strong and so sweet at the same time
    take care and keep us adjourned with your wonderful baby's meraviglie


  23. Dear Down, how brave you have been to endure all that. My births were shorter and with medicine,but still is a painfull experience.But nature is marvellous because you forget every pain when you get to hug your baby!! Enjoy your little family and be proud!! Love Mamma Carla

  24. HI!!! Dawn i,m glad that your baby was born healthy . Hope you are feeling better. You must be so happy that you are going to see your mom soon that ;s great :))))

    Take Care , Mary Chicago il

  25. Dear Dawn. I have read your blog for a long time and have never commented but just wanted to say that I think your little boy is just beautiful and I am so very pleased for you and your husband. I know you have waited a very long time for this which makes it extra special. I wish you much love and boundless wonder with your sweet little boy and I look forward to reading all about it! xxx

  26. Hi Dawn,
    Thank you for sharing yours and Raphael's amazing story with us! I'm still surprised that you left the birthing centre after only an hour!
    I'm so sorry to hear that you got so dangerously sick after the birth. I hope you are recuperating and resting (as best you can).

  27. Yikes, you are a brave girl..hope this finds you on the mend and enjoying precious moments with your new love! (I went with the epidural for all three deliveries..I don't like pain!xo) It's hard to think about taking care of yourself, but you must...xo

  28. What a wonderful birth story!

    I so wanted a natural birth but unfortunately my body had other ideas. Because of the cholestasis I had to be induced. And although I made it through most of the labour on my own, my body couldn't cope and by the end I was on drips and all sorts because of high blood pressure, severe dehydration, a racing heartbeat and an increased risk of excessive bleeding. Oh and not to mention getting a third degree tear which had to be stitched in theatre. So my plans for a natural birth went out the window entirely and so I love reading that others actually managed to have the natural labour and birth they wanted as it makes me remember that it is possible and that our labours and births are what we make them!

    So thank you for sharing and well done on getting through what is a crazy experience. I still can't quite get over it all, it is such an indescribable experience, isn't it?

    Enjoy these early days with your baby boy. We've been having many of those days and nights where baby wants to nurse constantly and new parent exhaustion seems to be our constant companion. But looking down into your baby's arms makes everything ok, doesn't it? xx

  29. thank you for sharing. what a beautiful day!
    god bless, you and your family.

  30. That last photo put tears in my eyes. . . look at you, you have the thing you wanted most on earth. ♥

    1. Oh Susan, I only found this comment now...YES, you are so right. So so right.
      Thank you for visiting sweet friend!



Related Posts with Thumbnails