Happy 5th Birthday to My Daughter Leilani
Nancy Salgueiro, a 32-year-old mother of two, is a professional birth coach and founder of the site, Your Birth Coach where this post was originally published. She will be live streaming her upcoming home birth from Ottawa, Canada where she currently resides. Sign up on her website to be alerted when she goes into labor and watch the birth live.
I have heard many women recount birth stories that start off just like mine and end in “so I had to have a c-section”. The only difference between me and them is that I had the support, faith, knowledge, and confidence in birth to make it the extra mile. The biggest difference being the support, no one gave up on me which made it easier not to give up on myself.
People will say “you are very lucky”. They mean I am “lucky” to have been able to have good births. I would agree that I am very fortunate to have the birth experiences that I have had but the actual births did not happen by luck. What is lucky for me is that I was exposed to the information I needed to create these birth experiences years before I ever considered having kids.
My journey to birth started back in 1999 when I began Chiropractic College. Chiropractic College is a unique environment where you are surrounded by a community of health conscious, family oriented people pursuing the same goals as you. This is where luck came in. I happened to attend a seminar on birth trauma early in Chiropractic College. It was taught by the director of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, Jeanne Ohm. She lit a spark! I was horrified at what was being done to moms and babies in the birth process. At first, this made me realize my path within chiropractic would be to help these babies recover from all the pulling and twisting that was being done to their sensitive little necks and to help prevent it with good prenatal chiropractic care that has been shown to lead to safer and gentler births. As time went on, I became more and more passionate about what exactly was being done in birth and why it was being done. This is when I realized how unnecessary the majority of this intervention is when trying to create an ideal birth outcome.
I completed training with the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association to become certified with them for pediatric and prenatal chiropractic care and continued my learning about creating an ideal birth. I became the person that expecting moms would consult with to find out their options in birth and how to create a gentle birth for their babies. I was asked to be at births and attended many births as labor support.
My first pregnancy was in 2006. I called the midwives before even telling my husband because I knew this was the only way to get in, there are not enough midwives for the demand.
I read and read and read. I did not read “What to Expect When You are Expecting,” like most moms. I read “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth”, “Childbirth Without Fear,” “Birthing from Within,” “The Birth Partner,” “The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth,” Immaculate Deception,” “Gentle Birth Choices,” Birthing the Easy Way From Someone Who Leaned The Hard Way,’ and many more. I trusted birth, I trusted my body, and I knew I could birth my baby naturally. What I didn’t trust was the system. If I had one fear during my first pregnancy, it was being put into the system and being put on the clock. Well, we have a great way of manifesting the things we fear most.
My water broke on a Wednesday evening and nothing happened. I went on with my life and even attended a midwifery consumers group meeting that night. I didn’t sleep much that Wednesday night paying so much attention to every subtle hint of a contraction, waiting for it to be time. The next day I took my nephew to a play class and went on with my day. I had a midwife appointment that afternoon and admitted that my water had been broken since the day before.
Again, I didn’t want to be put on the clock and I knew that most women would be induced and/or having a C-section by now. Fortunately, I had one of the most experience midwives in my area and she was fantastic. “Don’t worry, labor can take days,” that made me feel so good to know that I had her support.
Thursday evening I still planned on going to work until the last minute and decided that maybe I should get prepared for the birth. (Yes, I often feel too dedicated to my patients and don’t want to let them down). My sister and I went grocery shopping, came home to make a cake and cookies, and even did a belly cast as contractions got started. I wasn’t in a rush to go to bed because I figured the baby would be coming any time now. We realized that baby was in no hurry so we should get some rest.
I didn’t sleep much that Thursday night, again paying attention to every sensation in my body. Friday morning contractions were happening relatively consistently but the pattern kept changing. We went for a walk in the park and I played on the swings and play structure between contractions. We came home watched a movie and just hung out, waiting.
By about 8 pm I felt defeated. I felt like nothing was happening and nothing was going to happen. I was on the clock and I created it. I was tired and frustrated. I believed in birth and knew I could do it; I just needed to get there.
Nipple stimulation releases oxytocin, which contracts the uterus. So I nursed my niece. I went from contractions petering off and coming again to feeling like I needed to push almost instantly. We called the midwife.
By time the midwife arrived I had changed position and everything slowed down once again. I consented to one internal exam because at this point I want to know. I was 3 cm dilated, with no progress in contractions, a baby turning posterior, over 2 days of my water being broken, and GBS unknown (by choice).
Midwives here in Ontario don’t make choices for you. They give you your range of options and support you in what you choose for your baby. If they feel strongly about one of your options they will give you’re their opinion but in the end the choice is yours. So she gave me my options. Go to the hospital and get an epidural so I could rest, try to get labour going using natural methods but it would still take a while because of the posterior baby, or try to rest and try to get the baby to turn.
This is where I came to the point of understanding the other side. I understood fully in that moment why a woman would say yes to an epidural. I understood why a woman would consent to a C-section even though she didn’t really want one. I understand and do not judge. I didn’t want that for me or my baby. I was done, beat, exhausted, I wanted to forget I was in labor and start again another day. I knew I could birth my baby naturally so I chose to rest. My midwife tucked me in and left since we figured this would take a long time still and she had been up at births for the last few days, (it was a full moon).
I got a chiropractic adjustment and spent the next two hours deep inside myself with my baby. I chanted silently “turn baby turn” as I stroked her in the direction she needed to move. She moved up a storm in there. I lay silently next to my husband who thought I had actually fallen asleep until I started to feel the sensation that my body was pushing. I didn’t want to get my hopes up since I had felt like pushing after my niece nursed too. So I continued to lay silently until I heard my sister leaving to go get my other sister. I knew something was happening and didn’t want her to leave so I finally admitted, “I need to push”. My husband’s reaction was “what are you talking about, you were sleeping.” I said “No, I wasn’t, and I need to push.” Pushing was the most satisfying experience of my life. It was finally here and nothing was stopping it. I was going to birth my baby the way I knew I could. When your body is ready to push, it is ready to push. It is totally reflexive, you can’t stop it and there is no need to help it.
The midwife arrived with 4 minutes to spare. I went from 3 cm dilation, a posterior baby, waters broken for 53 hours, and no progress to birth in 2 hours of meditative silence. This was the best two hours of the entire process. Reaching the point of defeat, feeding on loving support, finding that place deep inside where you know you can, and doing then it, is one of the greatest achievements in life.
Although we hadn’t committed to any baby’s names, the moment I looked down and I saw my daughter I thought, “Oh, hi Leilani.” Just like I had known her forever and was just being reacquainted with an old friend. I will forever remember that exact moment we met face to face.
Here is the video of her labor, the birth video is not uploaded at this time.
Salgueiro was due October 7, so her upcoming birth will happen any day now! Read more about her on HuffPost Canada.