If you enjoyed reading PART ONE of Milly's birth story, keep reading to learn what I think helped me have a smooth labor and delivery.
THE “A” TEAM From the moment I met the Owner/Certified Nurse Midwife, Simona and her team of professionals at the Natural Birth Center, I knew it was the place I wanted to deliver our baby and where I would get the best care possible. I appreciate that Simona is a certified nurse in addition to a midwife. She has attended over 1,000 births and her reputation precedes her. The environment she has created is welcoming, empowering and their philosophy is simple. They believe that "every woman has the innate wisdom, power and sensibility to birth her baby naturally." Our bodies were made to do this and their midwives and birth team trust in your own strengths and wisdom as a woman and soon to be mother. It made me feel good to be in a place where I would be surrounded by women who support my decision to give birth naturally, a place where I would have a voice to make decisions about myself, my baby and my birth. I also loved the idea that I would be in a comfortable environment similar to my home, not a sterile hospital that would make me feel like I was having a medical procedure done instead of a beautiful, natural birth. And, since the birth center is across the street from Cedars Sinai Hospital, it was comforting to know that if myself and the baby needed to be transferred, we were close by. I also loved that I could have the water birth I had envisioned for myself and our baby at the birth center-something you can't do at a hospital. And finally, I loved the sense of community at the birth center and the complete trust and love I felt when I was there.
HYPNOBIRTHING So much of our amazing birth story I credit to hypnobirthing. Mr. A and I studied with Nina Phelan of The Soulful Birth every week the month before Little A was born. Nina's class absolutely prepared us for our natural birth. She was imperative to our birth journey. Using the Mongan Method, Nina taught us how to relax and trust our birth journey. I learned how to connect to my body and our baby and tune in to the natural birthing process. She is an incredible teacher. Because of the breathing and visualization techniques we learned I was also able to get through the intensity of labor in a relaxed pain-free state. The hypnobirthing classes very much prepared both of us. Nina's class prepared Mr. A so he could be the best possible birth companion. He was able to help me stay focused and grounded during labor. He knew exactly how to support me through breathing, counting the waves (or contractions) and offering massages during the different stages of labor. He was my constant and my rock-keeping me motivated throughout the process.
No matter what kind of birth you envision for yourself and your baby, hypnobirthing is a powerful, priceless skill that will help you release any fear you have about birth, help you manage pain and stress levels and an incredible tool you can take with you throughout other areas of your life.
DOULA I think having a doula is key especially if you're having a natural birth and plan on laboring at home as long as possible. We were referred to our doula, Darla of Darla's Darling Doula Service from our good friends who hired her for the birth of their daughter two years ago. They swore by her and said it made all the difference in the world having her on their birth team. We really appreciated that she is also a labor and delivery nurse so her birthing experience was unparalleled. I also liked that she is a wonderful mama of four, also had natural births and is extremely tuned in and was supportive of our birth plan. The way I thought of our relationship with her was that Mr. A would be in front of me so I could lock eyes with him, hold his hand and lean on him for emotional support. Darla would be behind me, giving me pressure massages and offering physical support. This would allow Mr. A to be my husband, my rock, my birth partner-and for him to not have to stress or worry about knowing all of the answers or to need to remember everything we learned in our birthing class because we had Darla. For us, being first time parents, there are so many unknowns and having a doula on call was imperative. As soon as my water broke I texted Darla to give her a heads up and keep her posted on my progress. A lot of first time parents end up going to the hospital or birthing center too early so having a doula helps you determine how far along you are so you don't go to the hospital prematurely. In our case, Darla saved us from having Little Amazing at home since my labor did move so quickly! I thought I had time but if she hadn't of told Mr. A to get me in the car and head to the birthing center, we would have definitely had Little A at home (which was not the plan at all)!
MIND, BODY, SOUL I believe the harmony of mind, body and soul played a huge part in the ease of Milly's birth. Labor and delivery is obviously a very physical journey so I knew I needed to keep my body strong throughout my pregnancy. From the beginning of my pregnancy I practiced stretching to keep my pelvis and hips open, stayed extremely hydrated, did light exercise (mostly walking) and attended prenatal yoga a couple times a week at Happy Baby LA. I'm obsessed with this studio and their holistic approach to creating a safe, nurturing place for mommy and baby. I love the sense of community there and how you are surrounded with other mamas. The instructors, the people and the vibe is all positive. It's completely different than going to a traditional yoga studio that offers prenatal yoga. One of my absolute favorite prenatal yoga classes is taught by Khefri who uses Kundalini Yoga, meditation and mantra to nurture the mind, body and spirit. Her class helped me practice my breathing, allowed me to focus on my baby and really put me in touch with my body. Her class really prepares you to have an empowered pregnancy and birth. The hour and a half I was there each week was so powerful. Every time I left class I felt closer than ever to my baby and more excited about my delivery.
I've always believed in the power of affirmations. During my pregnancy I consistently told myself affirmations. I wrote them down over and over again, would say them out loud and focused on them throughout the day. "Thoughts become things." This is a belief I carry with me through other areas of my life as well. I told myself I would have a beautiful, calm, peaceful, healthy natural birth. Anytime I heard a positive birth story, I would think about it, take all of the amazing aspects from it and visualize my own birth story. I imagined it all of the time and I was very specific. I even told myself I wouldn't be at the birth center longer than 3 hours...and I actually believed it. I would paint the picture over and over again of what Little Amazing's birth would be like. I think half of having a natural birth is committing to it. Most importantly, I really believed it would happen that way. In the deepest part of my soul, I believed that's exactly how it would be. I would consistently have talks with God about his plan and praised him for this blessing. Everyday I would thank Him for choosing us to be Little A's parents and for this healthy, amazing baby. It's such a miracle to get pregnant and to have a healthy pregnancy and it's something neither of us takes for granted. And so I would quiet any negative noise I would hear anytime I shared I was having a natural birth at a birth center (which happened often). And Mr. A and I would choose to only focus on our choice, our pregnancy and the power of positive thoughts. Even when I started getting painful back labor and acid reflex toward the end of my pregnancy we fed our minds with positive thoughts and focused only on the positive. This painful back labor only meant we were getting that much closer to meeting our baby!
YOU & ME + BABY MAKES THREE I couldn't have done any of this without Mr. A. Having an active, hands-on partner during my pregnancy and delivery made a world of a difference. I can't imagine going through any of this without him. My "easy" pregnancy was mostly easy because Mr. A helped me so much. In the first trimester when I was so sleepy I could barely keep my eyes open after coming home from work at 7pm, he would do all of the cooking and cleaning. During all of our baby classes Mr. A is the one who took notes, asked questions and made sure we did all of our homework. All of the day to day mundane "life" things at home he handled. This allowed me to focus on my body and the baby and not worry about anything. He gave me a break when I needed it and even when I didn't think I did. He encouraged me to go to prenatal yoga, booked prenatal massages, helped me eat right, made sure we went on date night each week. When I started getting pregnancy insomnia in my third trimester and the braxton hicks and back labor would hit in the early morning hours, he would get up with me and massage my back, get me water and help me go back to sleep. He came to every baby appointment with excitement and joy. And on the morning of July 7, 2017 when my water broke and our pre-labor began, Mr. A was there supporting me, holding me and encouraging me. When I got tense and my breathing got off track, he helped me relax and calm down. His overall excitement about us being pregnant was powerful in making me feel secure and excited too.
TRUST When it comes down to why I think I had such a beautiful birth experience it is all centered around TRUST. I trusted my birthing team beyond measure. Even when I realized my midwife's assistant would be delivering Little A because our midwife wasn't there yet, I felt confident and had complete trust in her. Hypnobirthing taught me to trust my body, trust my baby and trust the birthing process. Most importantly, I trusted my partner that no matter what, he'd be with me right by my side. I knew I would never feel alone or scared because I was holding on to him. Mr. A was holding me up when I was too weak, and holding my hand when I delivered our baby girl.