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Peace and quiet: The birth of Sophia Shehabi Unmedicated

Peace and quiet: The birth of Sophia Shehabi

"The pushing phase took about two hours, but in total I had 22 hours of labor."

While waiting to pick up my prescription glasses, I felt a hint of a backache—my first during the entire pregnancy. At that point I was at 38 weeks. Early the next morning, at 4 a.m., I felt a trickle of liquid down below. After a quick inspection, I realized it was light pink water. I called my midwife, who asked me to come in to the hospital in order to check that my waters had broken.

Upon confirmation, I was invited to stay at the hospital because my labor had officially begun, even though I wasn’t due for another two weeks. I quickly decided that being in “early labor” wasn’t going to stop me from doing as much as I could do before I absolutely needed to be in the hospital, so I signed a waiver to leave.

I hopped on the next bus and went about my day as usual—as much you can in early labor. I called my mother at noon to tell her about my contractions and my plan to pick up lunch for my family on my way home. By the time I reached the house, my contractions were already 10 minutes apart.

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I got home at 4 p.m. and could tell that my contractions were a lot closer, but I was still guesstimating that they were about 10 minutes apart. My mother, my sister and I were all excited, but my mom encouraged me to focus on eating lunch. I decided that I would take a quick shower before I sat down to eat, and I felt as though I had three contractions during what I thought was a quick shower.

When I finally sat down to have my lunch, my mother and sister took turns timing the contractions. We found them to be four or five minutes apart, and they continued to be that way for the next two hours. It was soon obvious to everyone when I was having a contraction because I could no longer talk normally during them and had to pause in between bites. Still, it didn’t cause too much discomfort.

So by 6 p.m., we grabbed my bag, which was already packed with everything I might need to survive labor (I took that job very seriously, and my bag was packed and ready more than a month ago), and my mom, my sister and I headed to the hospital. My husband was working in Dubai; otherwise, he would have been there, too. (It turns out that I was glad he actually didn’t end up having a ringside seat for my screaming and sweating.)

 

At the hospital my contractions started coming progressively closer together. I was not only quiet during them, but I needed everyone else to be quiet, too. I even held up my hand once during a contraction to silence one of the nurses when she tried to talk to me.

As the contractions continued, my mother—who was also my doula—knew what I needed and suggested that I try out the birthing ball. I felt very comfortable sitting and swaying on it for most of the night.

When I was in transition I was impolite and demanding. I emphasized my need of total silence during contractions. (It was not at all what I had expected—I thought I would be joyous during my labor, listening to music and singing with my sister!) One nurse was tapping her foot—or maybe simply moved it—during a contraction, and the noise bothered me. I harshly said, “Stop!” I even asked them to move a rocking chair out of my line of vision because it was too distracting.

Contractions were steady. I had a cordless monitor, and I requested an IV line so that they could give me an electrolyte solution because I could feel myself getting dehydrated. I was really thirsty, but I just couldn’t stomach the idea of drinking anything. Thankfully, they didn’t give me glucose or anything else in my IV.

IMG_0124My birth plan included laboring in water, but when I tried sitting in the tub, I didn’t enjoy it. The water was never warm enough. My most comfortable position was sitting and swaying on the birthing ball—and then during the pushing stage, on the toilet. I did that the longest. There was a birthing stool, but it was low and tiny. I just wasn’t interested in trying it.

I read every pregnancy book I could get my hands on to prepare myself, but I somehow failed to read books on the actual labor and delivery part (although I intended to closer to my due date). Still, I had a labor plan. Mainly, there were two things that were very important for me: 1) I wanted to have a natural birth. 2) I didn’t want to be told how far I was dilated. I knew I would be discouraged and disappointed if I were laboring for hours, only to be told that I was 3 centimeters.

In active labor, they needed to check my dilation. (I don’t remember the reason why.) They said they would honor my birthing plan and not tell me how far I was dilated, but I told them that they might as well tell me because I would be curious. They said I was 6 centimeters, and I was so happy that I asked them to check once more after an hour. Then they said I was 7 centimeters.

After another hour I said, “Don’t you need to check again?” They didn’t need to, but they did anyway for my benefit. Boy, was I glad they did! After checking, the midwife looked up at me and said, “You are doing a fantastic job! You’re at 9.9.” I was thrilled and asked why we had to wait till I was 10. Why couldn’t I just start pushing now?

By 2:04 a.m., when I couldn’t take the contractions any-more, I pushed with all my might. I was asked if I wanted to see the baby’s head —I didn’t. I ended up more or less skipping the crowning phase, and on November 2, my little Sophia burst forth into the world a little sooner than expected, all 6 pounds, 9 ounces of her. (My due date was November 13, so she arrived 11 days early.)

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The pushing phase took about two hours, but in total I had 22 hours of labor. The midwife put my darling on my chest, umbilical cord still attached. They were about to cut the cord when I was pleased to hear my sister ask, “Can I do it?”

I never knew what it felt like to be “body proud” until that moment. Except for a brief period when baby’s heart rate was dropping, I was never nervous during my entire labor. After all was said and done, I can tell you that my labor was certainly hard work, but it wasn’t unbearable. I was lucky that I wasn’t too sore afterward, either.

I went into labor thinking I would deliver and go home immediately because —of course—I would be supermom from the start, and I generally have a healthy, active body. But I quickly realized after an exhausting delivery, it was in Sophia’s and my best interest to stay as many nights as possible in a place where we had support ’round the clock. We ended up staying three nights; let’s say that supermom-in-the-making needed her rest. The hospital experience was wonderful because in addition to the cheerful and supportive staff, I had the natural, medication-free birth that I envisioned.

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Sophia looked exactly like her daddy when she was born and had skin softer than butter. Thankfully, aside from the jaundice that appeared on her third day, my tiny tot was healthy, and we were on our way home before we knew it. From day one I’ve had less time and more noise—but already tons of love.

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Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to birthstory@pnmag.com. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!