I connected with Bonnie and Coastal Doulas after a very undesirable birth experience with my first son. We were led to believe an induction was our only option, which resulted in a long stressful labor, the baby aspirating his meconium, and an 11 day NICU stay. When we found out we were expecting for the second time, my husband and I knew we wanted to do as much as we physically could to ensure this labor and delivery would be completely different. We changed our health care provider, we hired Bonnie as our doula, and we continued to educate ourselves on what we were unhappy with and wanted to be different this time around.
It’s no secret; there’s only so much you can control when it comes to having a baby. Overall, I had a wonderful 9 months of pregnancy. Different kinds of challenges presented their self this time with having to care for our other son, but they were minimal and easily addressed. Based on my expected due date of April 3, we would end up having a newborn and a 20 month old! The infamous “2 under 2”. In trying to be proactive and acknowledging the difficulty we knew would come once bringing baby home, we made sure to plan to have hands on deck for at least the first month to two months once baby arrived. This was one thing we thought we could control but was to be robbed from us in the weeks to come.
One of the issues I encountered with my first pregnancy was lack of dilation. Of course, every pregnancy is different, but I wanted to do all things possible to help my body “progress quicker” in the last few weeks. Once it was approved by my midwife, I started a religious daily regime of red raspberry leaf tea, birthing ball stretching, primrose capsules, and eating lots and lots of organic dates. By my 36 week internal check I had more dilation then I did when I arrived for my induction at almost 41 weeks last time. I was so motivated and proud. Things were happening just as we hoped.
For the entire month of March, the seriousness of the Covid-19 virus grew and grew. The newness of the disease really left so much uncertainty for everyone, especially pregnant women. What if I am Asymptomatic? Can I pass this to my unborn baby? Will this affect my breastfeeding? Are hospitals safe to go to? There were no definite answers, but so many questions. I tried to shift away from the unknowns, stay positive and keep focusing on things in my control. The last few weeks of my pregnancy was literally when everything was at its worst and cases and DEATHS were peaking. We were notified of the changes that were going to be happening to limit people and potential exposure/contamination. Some included patients only at weekly appointments, hospital labor support being limited to one person (and some hospitals none), wearing a mask was highly recommended, society was required to quarantine and social distance, everyday life as we knew it was shutdown. I started feeling the joy and excitement of having a new baby being replaced with all undesirable emotions. To deal with this on your best day is petrifying, but to add these stresses to the life of someone about to give birth was simply nerve wracking.
When I thought about the big picture of what I really was about to be faced with, it was extremely overwhelming. One of the main things I really was hoping for this time around was to go into a natural labor. When and if this would happen gave me a ton of anxiety, but at least it was welcomed anxiety being something I was expecting. Day by day the visions I had for this labor and delivery started slipping away and were replaced with new rules and restrictions. Flights were now cancelled and the support I THOUGHT I would be coming home to was gone. My husband being my choice for day of labor support meant Bonnie was gone. There would be no meeting of the siblings in the hospital, (or any visitors for that matter) and no newborn photography. Things that may seem trivial, but things we were really looking forward, not having them our first time either because of his NICU stay were now again gone.
Never in a million years did I think when my water broke and I went to grab the last few things for my hospital bag that I’d be packing face masks and rubber gloves too. Despite what felt like the world crumbling around me, the actual 12.5 hours from when my water broke to when I was holding my sweet baby was absolutely perfect. My body showed me that it could do what I did not know it was capable of, and I couldn’t be more grateful and proud. We had a beautiful birth, it was calm and safe and everything I hoped for that was missed my first time.
Though Bonnie wasn’t physically present during the birth of Eli, she couldn’t have been there for me more during the entire process. We kept in communication the entire day via text (starting at 2 am when my water broke.) She continually offered words of encouragement for myself and my husband, she sent visual aids for when it was time to push, empowering birth affirmations to remind myself how strong I was, and options to FaceTime at any point. This was clearly not the experience we had dreamed of, but I still felt incredibly supported that day and throughout my entire pregnancy.
We are still faced with this pandemic after having Baby Eli home for over one month now. We are still quarantined and still managing all that comes with that, in addition to having a newborn AND a 20 month old. Eli has yet to meet 99% of our family and friends, and it’s so tough to realize we won’t get these days back to share with them. Overall being able to birth Eli the way we hoped, and to have him healthy and home with us right now is most important. We may not know what tomorrow will bring, but we are certain that we are blessed with a perfect little boy AND the “completely different” birth experience we hoped for we TRULY got!