The excitement of knowing we were pregnant with our second child was amazing. We were thrilled throughout the pregnancy and couldn’t wait to welcome a new little one into our family. Despite that excitement it was easy for me to get caught up in fear of the unknown, especially as my due time approached. I unfortunately had experienced a traumatic vaginal birth with my son less than two years prior, a birth that had looked nothing like what I had hoped. It was an induction at 39 weeks that was chock full of interventions and medications that left me sad and depressed in my postpartum period because I didn’t get the natural, low- intervention birth I had so longed for. Combined with a very fussy, colicky infant, those first few months were some of the hardest I’d ever endured.
Needless to say during this pregnancy, as my due date approached, I was easily whisked back to that birth and those hard first few months postpartum. I sought out the sacraments frequently in those last few weeks, and I could truly feel God telling me it would be different this time. I read up on physiologic birth and equipped myself with lots of knowledge surrounding natural birth. I also hired an amazing Christian doula that my husband, Tom, and I absolutely loved. I was determined that this birth would be different than my previous birth almost exactly two years prior.
I hit 39 weeks and quickly became impatient for labor to start. I continued to find things to do with my toddler to keep us busy and distracted. The day before my daughter was born we decided to go visit my parent’s farm about an hour away from our home. I went to the chiropractor and then we spent the day hanging out with my Mom. I noticed about halfway through the day that I was having contractions pretty consistently, although I didn’t stop to time them. I continued to just ignore them, as they were still very bearable. I figured my body was just
beginning some prep work. We left to drive home about 8 p.m. that evening. While we were driving home I finally timed my contractions and realized they were about every 5-7 minutes.
We got home and I put my son to bed and went about some household duties. I was putting laundry away at about 11 p.m. when I felt a gush of water down my leg. I remember questioning if my water had just broken. I went to the bathroom and the water continued to trickle. I started to get excited that this was it! We were going to meet our new baby soon! I texted our doula and let her know I thought my water had broken. She told me to see if my contractions picked up over the next hour or so.
We tried to get some sleep, but I couldn’t get my mind to stop racing. I instead focused on the contractions. I would say a Hail Mary during them and found a lot of peace and distraction doing this. They continued to intensify and get more frequent. At about 4 a.m. I got up and texted our doula to see if she could come. I started to try to move with my contractions and hopefully help baby descend with different positions and movement. I had some specific intentions I had chosen to pray for during labor, which I had been doing, but as my contractions intensified I found it harder and harder to focus.
Our doula arrived around 4:30 a.m. and she greatly helped me work through contractions over the next few hours. Around 7 a.m. she said she felt like things were picking up and that it might be time to head to the hospital. I was GBS+ and had made the decision to have antibiotics during labor so I wanted to get to the hospital in time for them. We only live a few minutes away from the hospital so I only had two intense car contractions. We arrived to the hospital around 7:45 a.m. The nurse did a vaginal check and said I was only four centimeters. I felt discouraged by that, but our doula assured me that things were progressing.
My doctor stopped by and said she’d be back about noon to check on me. We made it to our room about 8:30 and I got hooked up to get the antibiotic. I was having contractions every 3-5 minutes at this point but they were getting harder to relax through. I was also already starting to feel some pressure. After my antibiotic was done I made my way to the tub, which was my saving grace. I was in the tub for close to an hour, but it seemed like 15 minutes. At that point my contractions started to come one after the other. I started to feel nauseous as well, and almost like my body was taking over control of what was going on.
I remember telling our doula and Tom that I wasn’t sure I could keep going. They both reassured me that I could do it, and our doula said it sounded like I was in transition with what I was
describing. I felt relief knowing I could be progressing quicker than I thought. After an hour in the tub the nurse came in and said I needed to get hooked back up to the fetal monitor. I was not happy about getting out of the tub and so I lingered for a bit. When I finally got out of the tub I said I felt tons of pressure like I needed to push. It was about 10:45 at this point.
The nurse checked my cervix and then immediately called my doctor and said I was an 8 or
a 9 but that I wanted to push. My doctor said she’d head over. I think at this point I started pushing even though the nurse had told me not to. I remember the contractions being intense and I had to hold onto Tom through them and sort of squat into them to get relief. I had been able to pray Hail Marys throughout contractions up to this point and I just couldn’t even formulate thoughts anymore. Thankfully Tom knew this and started praying over me when I couldn’t do it myself anymore.
My Dr. arrived shortly after 11 and I jokingly asked her if I had made my appointment time (I was scheduled to see her in office at 10 a.m. that day). She laughed and said I had just missed it, but that this was more fun anyway. She wanted to check me and I was a 9.5 with a little bit of a
cervical lip. She reminded me I could just trust my body. It was hard to find a comfortable pushing position. I felt like I wasn’t being effective with my pushing. I finally got into a position where I felt like I had more control over pushing and I started pushing with each wave of contraction. It was strange because I could feel my body taking over and telling me when to push with it. My contractions also spread out to allow me more time to rest in between, thank goodness. My contractions also seemed less painful even though it was hard work to push.
I started officially pushing at about 11:15. It seemed like my pushing was ineffective and I remember looking at Tom and our doula and making them promise me that the baby was moving down. They always reassured me that it was. I was so tired in between pushes and just praying the baby would come soon. I remember very vividly thinking I wasn’t sure I could push the baby out, but my awesome team always assured me that I could. I had a big push and then all of the sudden I felt intense stinging and I knew that this was the “ring of fire” when the baby’s head is crowning. I knew I was so close.
At this time, my doctor told me to try to do slow controlled pushes to help prevent tearing. I know I tried to do this, but I think at the same time my body just wanted to push the baby out. The head was out and then it took another big push to get the rest of the body out. At 11:57 a.m. Gianna Kathryn was born.
I remember hearing her cry and they put her right on my chest. At this point I still didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl. Someone asked what it was and I said, “I don’t know and I can’t look.” Why I couldn’t look I’m not sure, I think pure exhaustion! My doctor said, “Dad, what is it?” referring to Tom. Tom looked at me and said, “Allegra, you got your girl”. At that point I just lost it and cried tears of joy. Obviously, I would have been happy with a boy or a girl, but my whole pregnancy, especially at the end I just knew it was a girl. Saint Gianna Molla had been such a friend to me during my pregnancy that we had decided to name her Gianna if she was a girl. I felt so strongly it was a girl that once we had decided on her name, I had subconsciously been calling her Gianna the remainder of my pregnancy. Sweet, sweet, healthy baby girl.
After about 10 minutes my doctor said we could cut the cord and Tom was able to do that. I birthed the placenta shortly after that with a small contraction that I barely felt. Then my doctor had to suture me because I had a small tear, though thankfully not another 3rd degree tear like I had experienced with the birth of my son. She used lidocaine to numb the area and I didn’t feel a thing. I just kept looking in awe at our new baby and talking to Tom. I was able to get her to latch shortly after her birth. It was so beautiful and joyful.
I held her skin-to-skin for over an hour before they took her to get examined. After they took her Tom and I snarfed down some food and then we packed to head up to our postpartum room.
My birth was hard, painful, exhausting, but also so redeeming and joyful. I trusted my body and my body proved that it could do this without medications. I was so proud of myself, especially for pushing through all the very hard parts. The recovery was much easier, too, having not received any pain medications during birth, and I felt like my mental health maintained a better balance during this postpartum experience, too. I’m so thankful for the way this pregnancy, labor, and delivery went.
I prayed my whole pregnancy that I would feel better physically and mentally this time around and that I could mentally and physically handle labor and birth naturally. My experience showed that the power of prayer is so strong and I think God wanted to let me know that I could do this again and again if it be His Will. Thank you, God, for answered prayers. We love you, Gianna Kathryn. You have forever changed our lives for the better.
Allegra resides in the Midwest with her husband and three young children. She holds a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and works very part time as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. She enjoys getting to stay home with her children as her primary vocation.