If you had asked me almost two years ago, when I was preparing for the birth of my first-born daughter, if I would ever have a natural, unmedicated birth I probably would have burst out laughing…of course not! What woman would ever elect to do so? We live in a world readily available with modern medicine, one with lots of options available to numb the experience. Not to mention all the women (and even some men) in my life highly recommended I have a medicated birth. So why would I ever consider a different option?
The answers to my rhetorical questions suddenly came to light, months after my first daughter was born, when my husband and I found out on one warm Fourth of July weekend, that I was pregnant with our second child.
Naturally, I started to think back to the birth of my first child. The birth of my daughter, Mary Clare, was a pretty good experience even though she was born early at 36 weeks and 4 days and had some minor complications. For her birth, without even batting an eye, I elected to have an epidural and Pitocin almost immediately. I was also given unnecessary antibiotics for GBS. I had taken my GBS test that morning and the results had not come back yet but later came back negative. So I was hooked up to a lot of IVs and had continuous fetal monitoring. It was a lot, “but hey! That’s how they say I'm supposed to give birth…right?”
What I remember “feeling” the most about my first birth was not pain, but restriction and a lot of numbness. I realized that not feeling at all was actually worse than being able to feel the pain and beauty of my child being born. Looking back, I honestly wish I could have experienced that with my first daughter, although I don’t necessarily regret the decisions I made for her birth.
My recovery was okay, it could have been better, but it also could have been a lot worse. I suffered a second-degree tear that took about eight weeks to heal. Maybe that could have been prevented if I had known when to push during contractions, but alas, with an epidural I felt absolutely nothing, so I just pushed when people told me to and hoped for the best! I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been and I certainly wasn’t as empowered as I could have been.
But that mindset all changed for the birth of my second daughter, Zélie...
Thursday, February 16, 2023
Today was an exciting day for me because it was my last day of working remotely and I was
looking forward to some rest before the arrival of baby number two (or so I thought!). At this point, I was 37 weeks and 2 days. There was still plenty of time to prepare for baby unless she came early like her sister. My Dad was in town helping with some minor home improvements and playing part-time “nanny” for our older daughter. It was truly a great, run-of-the-mill Thursday. As the day came to an end my dad, husband, daughter, and I all celebrated my last day of work with a delicious steak dinner, key lime pie (one of my favorites!), and flowers. We then relaxed together in our family room catching up on the news of the day and then my husband and I went to bed around 9 or 10 p.m.
I did not sleep at ALL that evening. I could barely lie down. I tossed and turned from side to side. I got up, walked around, took a shower to relieve pain from my back, and made multiple trips to the bathroom. Was I having contractions? They were so inconsistent…I shrugged them off as Braxton Hicks. I had experienced the same exact situation with my first born, but I didn’t think too much of it. There was no way I was having another early birth. I mean, part of me thought I bet I’ll give birth before 40 weeks, but not at 37. Little did I know I was wrong…this was the beginning stages of actual labor.
Friday, February 17, 2023
I “woke up” exhausted and bleary-eyed. I hadn’t gotten an ounce of sleep, but my contractions had stopped, and I felt fine. I got up and decided to shower going about my daily routine. My husband was home since he worked remotely on Fridays which was perfect because he could come with me to my 37 week prenatal appointment that afternoon. We went about our day and once the afternoon rolled around my husband and I left to make the 45 minute drive to
my OB’s office. I know it sounds far, but to us it was worth the drive because they are the
only OB in our area that are Catholic and pro-life. Once we got to the office that was when things started to slowly begin.
We met with our midwife, Clare, who was new to the practice and my favorite medical professional there. She was Catholic and someone who I could tell really respected me and my decision to have a natural birth. She really empowered me to go through with it and I felt SO supported by her! I told her about my sleepless night (and everything I had been feeling up to
that point) and I decided a cervix check would be the right move for me especially since I had
such an early birth the first time. Lo and behold, I was 4-5 cm dilated! I tried not to get too excited because although this meant I could have the baby that day or the next, I also recognized I could be in this state for days…maybe even weeks.
Regardless, Clare recommended we stay in the area to go to the hospital in a few hours instead of driving back home. We live in an area with horrible traffic, especially on Fridays. I couldn’t believe my daughter could be coming so soon! My husband and I were so excited and relieved that my dad was at our house watching our older daughter. Everything seemed to be aligning well which was a big relief for two very prepared and organized people. Before leaving the office, I told Clare how I was so happy our appointment was with her, but that I was also a little sad because I was hoping she would be the one to catch my daughter in the hospital. It was in that moment that I truly felt the Holy Spirit. Clare, without hesitation, told me she got off work at 4 p.m. and was off that weekend at the hospital, but that she would go to the hospital and
be with me to birth my baby. I was floored. That was, by far, one of the most selfless and kindest things anyone had ever done for me. I was overjoyed and felt so strongly the words I had
read so many times from Mary’s book…I am made for this birth.
The afternoon was uneventful for someone who was 4-5 cm dilated. My husband and I drove to
the local mall about five minutes away from the hospital to kill some time. I really didn’t want to
labor for a long time at the hospital, but we were nervous and advised not to drive all the way
back home in case things started to progress quickly. We both ate, I drank a lot of water, and we
meandered around for as long as we could. I even went outside and did curb stepping for a few
minutes in the freezing February. We then decided it was time to head to the hospital and see
how I was doing.
We arrived at the hospital, and I honestly was still not feeling much. We checked in, filled out all
the required paperwork, waited a little bit, and then I was moved to triage. Again, it was uneventful and quiet. I think I was the only one there, but apparently it was a very busy day for
new babies as they had a lot of people giving birth that day. One of the doctors from my practice
stopped by and checked my cervix again…I was 6 cm dilated. I also met with Clare who I would
see again later during my birth. My contractions were starting to pick up more but were still
not super strong. Eventually a room opened for me in labor and delivery and we moved over
My labor and delivery nurse, Ciana, was absolutely amazing. Her calming and supportive
presence was exactly what I needed to prepare me for my natural birth ahead. She kindly set up intermittent fetal monitoring, brought me water, and made sure I had access to anything I
wanted (birthing ball, shower, and all). As we waited for my contractions to start picking up
more my husband helped set up the room by hanging twinkle lights, playing music, reading birth affirmations, and taping up pictures of our patron saints (St. John Paul II, St. Catherine of Siena, and of course, St. Zélie). After awhile I had my cervix checked again and I was now 6-7 cm dilated with my contractions starting to pick up.
After waiting a little bit longer, I made the choice to have my water broken. From there my contractions really started picking up and become painful – it was go time! I labored on a birthing ball for most of my contractions focusing on my breathing as the pain increased while squeezing my husband’s hand. Clare and Ciana were by my side every step of the way guiding me through my contractions and reminding me of my strength. At one very long and particularly painful contraction Clare reminded me of St. Zélie and the many births she had endured. I truly felt her presence there with me in the room.
I wasn’t sure I would know when it was time to push, but Clare guided me eloquently through
the process and my body really did tell me when it was time. I automatically reached for my
bed and started to pull myself up to lay down and give birth (the “normal” way to do so), but
Clare stopped me. “You don’t have to lay down on your back in the bed if that’s not comfortable…you can give birth the way that’s most comfortable for you.” I quickly slid off and labored from the side of the bed. I held onto the side of the bed squatting and as I looked up the picture of St. Zélie was directly in my line of view. My daughter’s birth was simply beautiful and so empowering. I pushed maybe 3-4 times and our sweet little Zélie was born.
The moment my daughter joined this world every ounce of pain I was feeling evaporated. I was in shock and so amazed at what I had just done. Zélie’s birth was one of the most empowering things I have ever experienced. I still can’t believe I gave birth naturally (and squatting!)
This birth was such a profound experience, and I am grateful I listened to the call I felt to learn more and to do it more intentionally and naturally. I hope every woman gets to feel the sense of empowerment, beauty, and worth that I felt in those moments. I was truly made for this birth.
Kianna is married to her college sweetheart Sean and is a stay-at-home mom and part-time track coach at an all-girls Catholic middle and high school. She and her family currently reside in
Northern Virginia and are enjoying their time together as a new family of four.