Birth Photography - Coral Springs Hospital Water Birth
*The Sophia Co is the brand new and improved version of Three Plus Photography. This blog post has been imported from my previous blog and may contain my old watermark on the images.
I think my story starts with the cultural background surrounding birth in my home country, Brazil, and with my first baby’s birth:
Most people today are aware of the high c-section rates in Brazil, and how most of its population truly believes that a c-section is safer than a vaginal birth.
Growing up I don’t remember meeting one single woman that had had a vaginal birth by choice, and I always thought that the safe way to bring a baby into this world was via surgery.
In 2005 I moved from Brazil to the US, met my husband and got married. In 2010 I got pregnant with our first son, and since I like to be informed when doing something, I started doing some serious research on pregnancy and birth.
A good friend of mine had just had a baby the day I found I was pregnant, and she had a natural birth at the hospital in Honolulu, where we were living at the time.
Her experience was pivotal in my decision to have a vaginal birth, and to try for a natural birth at the hospital.
I went to a couple of days shy of 42 weeks with a hard cervix, so my OB scheduled an induction for that weekend. Needless to say, the experience wasn’t the best. But my son was born vaginally and healthy, and I was happy to have been able to avoid a c-section and to prove to myself that my body could birth a 7.9lbs baby vaginally.
Fast-forward to September 2012 when I found out I was pregnant again. We had just moved to South Florida a few months before, and were still getting settled. I knew I wanted a natural birth, and was excited to find out that a hospital in Coral Springs offered water births as an option.
Finding a provider was very, very hard! I didn’t have insurance and had to rule out the possibility of seeing an OB. For me that was hard to come to terms with, since we rely so much on doctors in Brazil.
When I decided to see a midwife, I was confronted by a lot of people in my family, who thought I was crazy for not seeing a doctor.
Finding a midwife that would attend a birth in a hospital was hard. Finding one that did a water birth at the hospital was even harder! When I was 4 months pregnant I finally found Shelia Love, who coincidently helped implement the water birth option in this particular hospital. She had stopped attending births for a few years and had just gotten back into action. I was very blessed! I loved her on our first consult, and saw in her a confidence that gave me motivation and strength after feeling so tired with all the searching I had been doing.
Throughout my pregnancy I had a “feeling” that my baby girl would come earlier, but I refused to believe it so I wouldn’t be disappointed. My biggest and only fear was going past the 40 weeks and having to be induced again.
At my 38 weeks appointment my cervix was still very high, so Shelia said I would probably not see any action that week. She had already let me know that on that particular weekend of the 17th through the 20th she would not be on call because it was her father’s memorial service on the 17th and she was taking the time to be with her family. I prayed hard that my baby wouldn’t come on the 17th because, of course, I wanted her there and not some on call doctor that would probably not go for a water birth.
On the evening of the 17th, a Friday, I started having some intense contractions. I sat on my birthing ball and went through my hypnobabies tracks. I timed them and they were consistently 10 minutes apart. They lasted for at least 4 hours, and then they stopped at around 9pm. I breathed a sigh of relief, and even posted on my Instagram how I had had a false alarm!
I got my 2 yr old son ready for bed. He'd had a fever for the last 2 nights (so no sleep for me for 2 nights!) and I went to bed with him. He was very restless and kept wanting to lie down on my belly, and kept stroking my belly in his sleep. At 3am I started feeling mild contractions again. I started timing them and they were 5 minutes apart lasting 30 seconds each. Lying on my side was making me miserable, so I got up for a snack and to drink some water and at 5am my son woke up energized, fever free and wanting to play. Getting up hadn’t stopped the contractions, so I woke my husband at 6am and told him I was having mild contractions every 5 minutes and that I was going to get in the tub and that he better get up and stay with our son.
I stayed in the tub for a couple of hours, then my son joined me for a bath. The contractions were still consistent. I texted Lorel, my doula, to give her a heads up, but I still was very doubtful that this was “it”.
My mom and dad were already staying with us, having come from Brazil for the birth. My mom got up when I was in the tub and I told her this might be it, but I wasn’t sure yet.
Lorel texted me again to see if I was still having regular contractions, and I wrote her “Do you think this is it? I’m so confused. It’s hard to be sure.”
I was mainly worried that this was the real deal, and that my midwife wouldn’t be able to make it to the hospital. I think that’s why I had a hard time actually accepting that I really was in labor.
I got out of the tub after 3 hours to see if the contractions would last longer or become closer apart. When they started lasting about 1 minute I decided it was time to call my midwife and let her know what was going on, and to see how we would work this out. I also let Lorel know that she could come over now.
Shelia said when I couldn’t walk or talk through my contractions that I should head to the hospital, which was 30 minutes away. She also said that if it was later that day, she might be able to make it to the hospital, so to keep her posted.
I napped a little between contractions, and was very comfortable lying in bed on my own. I had been listening to my hypnobabies tracks since 3am, so I switched to some music for a change. When Lorel arrived I had just had some lunch, so I tried the birthing ball for a while. The whole time I was home in early labor I dealt with the contractions better if left on my own. The moment I hit active labor was when I felt the need to lean against someone and have someone hold me through it. I was very quiet and very calm. Even though I was tracking my contractions, I wasn’t really aware of time.
At around 3pm Lorel suggested I get in the shower, since I was starting to feel pressure on my back. I showered for around 30 minutes and my husband would hold me whenever I had a contraction.
When I got out of the shower the contractions were about a minute long and 2 to 3 minutes apart. I called Shelia to let her know and to ask if she thought I should head to the hospital. I remember having a contraction when I was talking to her and I was able to keep talking somehow, my voice never wavered. She said to go, especially because this was my second baby and because we lived a little ways from the hospital. She said to let the hospital know to call her when I arrived and that she was still trying to see if she would be able to go or not.
My hypnobabies training was definitely paying off. I didn’t feel tired at all even with 3 sleepless nights, and I was laughing and talking and smiling between contractions. I was also feeling no pain at all, just pressure - and nothing overwhelming.
My mother-in-law had already arrived at our house at this point, as she and my dad were going to stay with my 2-year-old son. We all got ready, and I think around 4pm we left for the hospital.
Around 4:35pm we were checking in at the hospital. I was able to sign all the papers and give the clerk information in between my surges.
I got mad at a nurse who didn't want to let me walk to the maternity ward, and looking back I should've seen that as a sign that the baby was close!
When I was finally taken to triage and got checked I was at 6cm! I was so excited! That was when I finally believed I was in labor and that I would really have this baby that day. I was also very happy when the nurse said Shelia was on her way. A huge weight I didn’t even know I was carrying was lifted off my shoulders!
At around 5:30pm the nurse took my husband and I to the birthing room, and my mom and Lorel joined us there. My husband then went back to the car to get the birthing tub and the gear to set it up, and my mom and Lorel stayed with me. They were putting cold compresses on my forehead, which felt so good, and Lorel put earphones on me so I could listen to my hypnobabies tracks and tune out all the commotion in the room. All the nurses that came in were very helpful and kept saying it was great I was going natural, and they were just very supportive. They were also very curious about us bringing the tub in, since the hospital has a couple of rooms with a built-in tub, but Shelia had recommended I bring my own tub.
A little before 6pm I was having to moan through surges,but still no pain at all. Just pressure. That’s around the time Shelia arrived. My husband and Lorel were setting up the tub, and I had the baby heart monitor on. This was the only unpleasant part of my whole labor. I had to sit in bed and that made the contractions get more intense, the position was also very uncomfortable.
When I heard my midwife's voice and she touched my arm, I instantly relaxed. She was here. I could birth this baby in the water! My contractions immediately got stronger when I relaxed and I started being a lot more vocal.
A few minutes after 6pm Shelia told me to go pee and then to get in the tub. The water was a little too warm for me, so they had some cold water running for a while. That felt great! My husband held me and kept telling me to breathe and to relax. I could also hear Lorel’s voice going through the hypnobabies queues and keeping me centered and in my “bubble of peace”. I was already moaning very loudly, and after only a few minutes in the tub and about 4 or 5 contractions later, I felt my water break with a loud pop and a gush at around 6:30pm. I was in the middle of a strong surge, moaning, when I felt it, and I stopped moaning to say “my water just broke!”
After this I immediately hit transition and had one contraction on top of the other, with almost no breaks. This is the part where it got intense. I entered my own world and I couldn’t really see or hear anything around me. I remember hearing voices but I simply couldn’t respond or think without having to leave my own world. I felt like the animal inside me was released, and all I could focus on was my baby being born and the intensity of the moment. I started roaring, mainly to deal with the pressure and intensity of the all the sensations and with the fact I didn’t feel in control at all. I was also holding back on pushing, even though I felt like it. When I finally let go, and let my body do its thing, it felt a lot better. I was holding onto my husband’s neck like there was no tomorrow!
I felt lots of burning and knew the baby’s head had to be right there. I tried to not push so fast and hard to avoid a tear, since I had a third degree tear with my last baby. I heard Shelia say that my baby was right there and she was coming out real soon! I could feel my baby’s head putting pressure on me and then go in again. I remember saying out loud “come on Maili”, and visualizing her coming out. When I couldn’t take the burning any longer, I pushed with all that I had and the head was out. My legs were very tense and Shelia kept telling me to relax them, but I just couldn’t. She decided to flip me over on my knees for the shoulders and body to come out.
At 6:55pm, as soon as I was flipped over I pushed and felt the shoulders bump against my pubic bone and then my baby girl was born!
They helped me turn around and maneuver my leg around the cord (which was super short!) and she was immediately placed in my arms. I was overwhelmed with happiness and the feeling of accomplishment. I had been able to birth exactly as I had dreamed of and now my baby girl was in my arms, all 7lbs 12.5oz ofher. We snuggled for a good 20 minutes in the tub, my husband cut the cord and then I got out of the tub to birth the placenta and see if I had any tears (which I did, a second degree one).
Shelia was simply awesome in advocating for my natural water birth at the hospital. She was on top of things and on top of the staff to get her what she needed. She didn’t even give me any Pitocin after the birth because breastfeeding was so successful and my bleeding was under control.
My husband and my mom were my rock, supporting me in everything and letting me do my thing. And Lorel, who I found and met only a few weeks before giving birth, kept me centered throughout the little but intense time we were at the hospital. Having a doula was really invaluable, and I’m glad I decided to look for one even being 30+ weeks pregnant at the time. It was a perfect match, and as Lorel said: “it was meant to be”.
I still can’t get over the fact that I really went through this whole experience. It seems like a dream. My daughter’s birth was definitely empowering, and I now trust my body in ways I hadn’t before. Throughout the whole experience I never thought about giving up, or that I couldn’t take it, or that I wanted pain medication – that’s how awesome it was!
It was a long road to get me where I am today, but I am so thankful that I was able to break free from the birthing stereotypes I carried with me my whole life. I also thank God because he really did answer that prayer of me not having my baby on the 17th! She was born the very next day, on the 18th!