Four hours after my baby girl was born, she stopped breathing in my arms. We were transferred to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. Thankfully after an extremely stressful and emotional 2 weeks, we were finally home with our little bundle. That’s a long story for another day, but it is one reason why writing and remembering my birth story is so important to me. It was the most amazing experience of my life and the birth I never really knew I wanted but I never really got to fully process or celebrate it since the emergency situation required shifting gears so quickly.
I also hope to help and inspire other new moms by sharing a very positive birth experience. As many of you know, when you are pregnant for some reason people feel compelled to tell you horror stories about labor!
The birth of Isabella Rae LeMire began the morning of April 14th, 2016. For the previous 2 weeks, I had been having extra ultrasounds and negotiating with my midwives. They were concerned about her small size and considering recommending early induction. So even though it was two weeks prior to our due date, I was thrilled when I woke at 6am and knew she had decided to come on her own.
I still can’t believe how calm I felt that morning when I came downstairs and said to my husband Adam that I thought today was the day. Over the years I had developed a lot of fear around labor and giving birth. It first started after watching a terrifying and tragic birth gone wrong episode of ER. Other portrayals of birth through media and a few personal horror stories fed the fire to the point of avoiding ever imagining giving birth myself. I viewed the act of birth as something you survive, not something you would ever look forward to! I have a friend who watches birth videos for fun. I thought she was completely crazy! During the first couple months of my pregnancy, I avoided thinking about it or considering my “birth plan”. I kept saying “ignorance is bliss”.
The one thing I did know is that I wanted to have the help of a Doula, someone to support me and my husband through the experience that actually had a clue and could help keep us relaxed! Enter Joyful Birthing’s Ellie Lindenmayer. We instantly clicked and I knew her calming energy and experience would be very welcomed on the big day. She introduced us to the concept of Hypnobirthing. As a yoga teacher I am very familiar with the benefits of deep breathing and meditation, but had never heard of Hynobirthing. Ellie’s Hypnobirthing class taught us all the basics of labor as well as relaxation techniques to help calm the mind and body for a more gentle birth and natural birth. To my surprise, I was completely fascinated by everything I learned and suddenly knowledge became empowering. I actually thoroughly enjoyed watching the birth videos and am so glad I did since they were integral to implanting new positive images of birth in my mind to replace the old scary ones. The most important thing I got out of the class was a huge shift in mindset towards birth. I was able to confront my fears and doubts and let them go. I had a new understanding of labor and the amazing capabilities of our bodies. I gained a confidence that I had the ability to birth my baby naturally and became excited for the opportunity to do so. I started to actually look forward to birthing my baby! I was able to create a birth plan that I felt good about and that came with ease with my newfound education and confidence. I knew going into the experience that so much could happen out of my control and that if I needed medical intervention I would be open to the options and very grateful to have them available to me if necessary. I made a pact with myself that I would not feel guilty or beat myself up over a change in plans. I was simply setting the intention of giving myself and my baby the best chance possible. I was able to approach the birth with positivity, without fear and with tools and resources I could call upon.
After waking up that Thursday morning in April and knowing something felt different I spoke with Ellie and my midwifes. They suggested I come into the hospital to test and see if my water had broken. To everyone’s surprise it turned out that my water had technically broken and so the midwife recommended that I check into the hospital by 6pm that evening to be induced. Adam and I left the hospital, went out to lunch, went for a walk, packed up some snacks and I listened to my guided meditations in the nursery. Ellie came over that afternoon to check on us. She encouraged us to ask for more time to let the baby come at her own pace and said that 12 hours after water breaking seemed very conservative to induce in her experience as long as both the baby and I seemed to be doing well. Around 4pm I started feeling more frequent mild surges (contractions) so I knew things were progressing. Adam and I took our time having dinner and decided to go for one more (very slow) walk. The sun was setting, we were arm in arm and I had a surreal feeling knowing this would be our last walk as two. Looking back it was a surprisingly relaxed and lovely day that I will always cherish.
We finally admitted ourselves to the Birth Center around 8pm. As we settled into our room our sweet nurse monitored my surges and the baby’s heartbeat. All was going well so far but no one seemed to think the baby was coming anytime soon on her own. I had a sit down with my midwife and after some convincing she agreed she was comfortable to let me go until 6am the next morning before she would really start pushing induction in order to prevent infection, so long as I was very closely monitored. I was on board with that.
Adam and I decided to try and get some rest. My surges had become strong enough to prevent me from sleeping but I closed my eyes and tried to rest. After only about 30 minutes of lights out I rolled onto my side and felt and heard a pop in my belly. It was game on from there. My water had fully released and I was in full on active labor. The surges were suddenly frequent and very intense. I closed my eyes and got into the zone. Over the next 6 hours of labor I only opened my eyes about 10 times briefly and said very few words.
After using a birth ball for awhile I moved to birth tub. Ellie transformed the hospital environment to a serene space with LED candles and essential oils. She offered music which I had thought would be helpful but in the moment silence was gold. I was completely inside my own mind and body. Only water and occasional words of encouragement from Adam, Ellie, my midwife and the wonderful nurses were offered. I had asked to not be offered any pain medication unless I requested it. This way I could stay focused and allow my own thoughts, feelings and intuition guide the process. The team around me was amazing. They let me do what I had to do. They supported me in the most effective and subtle ways. They were never more than 3 feet away but with my eyes closed there were moments I could hear a pin drop. Well, those moments were between surges! The intensity of the surges peaked and sustained while in the birth tub. A firm hand on my lower back was everything. I couldn’t have done it without Adam and Ellie’s steady hands taking turns assisting me. The word “pain” never crossed my mind, just “intensity”. My thoughts stayed positive. I replayed the Hypnobirthing affirmations and visualizations over in my mind. At the same time I was incredibly present in the moment and more in tune with my body than ever.
After a couple of hours in the tub, I suddenly felt a strong urge to push. I alerted the team and they helped me out. This was the first time they checked to see how far I was dilated. I was 7cm and fully effaced. It was time to welcome this baby to the outside world. This was my one big “holy crap” moment. I had the realization that this was it. I was really doing this and there was no turning back. It was too late for pain meds, for alternative methods, etc. My baby girl was coming and it was up to me to get her out! But I only had a brief second to entertain this thought as I was whisked back into the birth room between surges.
Within the two hours of pushing (breathing the baby down), I was guided into multiple different positions. The last stint was the toughest. I was shaking with exhaustion. With Ellie holding one leg, the nurse holding the other and Adam by my side, I let sound out, I breathed, I visualized that baby coming out and I kept telling myself that I was so close and that if I could just keep breathing and pulling strength from within, it would be all over and I could hold my sweet angel in my arms. It would all be worth it.
And it was. With one final push, my daughter was plopped face down on my belly. I gasped as I looked at her for the first time. I turned to Adam who was standing over us with joy and relief. After catching my breath, a huge smile came over my face and I said “I can’t believe I did it!”. I was truly in disbelief. I did it. I birthed my baby. I did it only with my mind, body and incredible support team around me. I was elated and shocked and proud and…oh right! I’m holding my very own baby girl in my arms! Her cry was strong and beautiful.
Birthing my baby was the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life. It took more focus and endurance than I could have imagined but it was also the most empowering and amazing thing I have ever done and likely will ever do. I am beyond grateful to have had this experience and thank Adam, Ellie and the team at Anna Jacques for their tremendous support.