A beautiful gift: The birth of Valencia Grace

By Joanna Rodriguez Neumann

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I knew we were spending a lot of money preparing for Valencia’s birth by paying for birthing classes, books, and doulas, but I wanted an un-medicated birth. Therefore, I wanted to be as informed as possible. Only a couple things could derail our unmedicated birth plan: 1.) Going over our due date by a week or 2.) My water breaking with no sign of labor starting.

Of course, the latter happened.

It was 12:30 a.m. on November 11th (Valencia’s due date!) when my water broke. I woke my husband, Jason, and we both just stared at each other in disbelief. We are having a baby today!

I started crying immediately, and admittedly, I was scared. I had been thinking about this moment for 9 + months—dreaming, wondering, anticipating how this would go and feel. All the classes and prepping we did, would we even be able to execute all the methods we learned now that my water had broken first? The fantasy I had of getting my hair blown out while in early labor and taking a walk along the East River (until my contractions reached the classic 4-1-1 phase) with my husband and dog before heading to the hospital became just that—a fantasy.

You see, when your water breaks, doctors give you only 24 hours to get the baby out before they start talking about a C-section. I knew I would be given Pitocin upon arrival to the hospital to start my contractions and get things moving and I had heard Pitocin really ramps up the pain of contractions to unbearable levels. That was something I had to come to terms with as we walked to the hospital at 1:00 a.m. in the morning.

Once we were in triage, it was confirmed that my water had broken and that I would need to start the Pitocin. I asked to be given some time, hoping my body would kick into action on its own. My doctor said she would give me 30 minutes (wow, how generous of her!).

As much as I willed my body to start contacting on its own in those 30 minutes, it did not listen. It was time for medication. Once in the labor room, Jason did his best to make it homey—we had LED candles, and with it still being dark outside, it really helped make the room feel more calm, welcoming and less hospital-like. Additionally, our nurse was a life saver! She was a former Lamaze teacher and truly supported my desire to have an unmedicated birth. She even gave me a birthing ball and helped with different positions when the contractions were intense.

My contractions were coming every two minutes, but they were very tolerable in the beginning. In fact, they were so tolerable that they wanted to hook me up to internal monitors to see how strong they were because I didn’t seem uncomfortable. I refused the monitoring since I knew it would make me less mobile then I already was. Nothing was more uncomfortable then having to disconnect from everything each time I had to use the restroom (which was often because I had an IV pumping me full of fluids) and have the nurse readjust the external monitors every time I rocked on the birthing ball. They checked me around noon and I was 4 cm dilated and was feeling good. I thought to myself, I’m handling these contractions on Pitocin, I can do this!

However, over the next few hours the mood changed from light and tolerable to annoyed and intense as my contractions started getting harder to handle and I began doubting myself. Jason was doing a great job massaging my back (I was having back labor) and I only wanted him to touch me. The poor guy massaged me for many hours and if he even let up on his pressure in the slightest, I was warning him to massage harder. In a few hours, I began moaning like the woman in the video we watched in our birth classes (the one that looked possessed by demons that I swore I would never sound like).

I’m sure I scared any pregnant women in the halls with all the commotion coming from my room. I was completely aware that I sounded crazy with all my moaning, but did not care. I became withdrawn and focused on the pain, and at this moment I wanted everyone around me to leave or shut up. It started to get to be too much, and I asked for my progress to be checked again (surely I had dilated quite a bit by this point!). In fact, I was convinced I had to be fully dilated by now! However, the extremely rude and forceful resident checked me and I was only 5 cm dilated. Because of her negative attitude toward my progress and all the pain I was enduring, I felt defeated and tired. I knew they would just keep upping the Pitocin and the contractions would just get worse (and I was too hungry, too weak and in too much pain to handle it). I asked for an epidural.

I remember looking at Jason and saying, “Are you disappointed in me?” His face said it all: not one bit. He then told me how proud he was of me and how he was in awe of how well I was handling everything. About 30 to 40 minutes later I received the epidural (at which time I was having the worst of the contractions and in a terrible position to handle them, sitting on the bed, completely still!). Once the pain medication kicked in, however, I was relaxed and felt content with my decision. I was acting like myself again, I was able to just be in the moment and enjoy those around me. About an hour after I received the epidural, I was checked again and was fully dilated.

After 45 minutes of pushing, our baby Valencia Grace was born! It was Veteran’s Day and I couldn’t think of a better gift to give my husband, an Iraqi veteran, on this beautiful holiday.

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Even though my plan for an unmedicated birth was met with road blocks from the beginning, I went as far as I could, and do not regret my decision to get an epidural.

In the end, I was very much in the moment during the pushing and felt this great connection with Jason during that time. Once I saw our little girl come into this world, I had felt this immediate connection with every woman who has ever given birth. I have never felt so powerful and strong in my life. Jason was such a rock during my labor and delivery, and I have never felt closer to him. I am in no way disappointed in myself. In fact, I have never felt more empowered in my life. In the end, we have a healthy, beautiful baby and for that, we are thankful.   

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