My Birth Story – The Hero’s Journey to Becoming a Mother with Anna Rova
About This Episode
Everything is a blur. It feels like I’m in limbo: not here, not there, not anywhere. It feels like I don’t know who I am. Like I’m not me.
The realization that I’ve just given birth to a human child has not sunk in yet.
My body is a wreck. My mind is a wreck. But somehow it feels like it has been a necessary, giant leap. It feels like I was born to do this and this experience is only going to make me stronger, mold me into the woman I am supposed to become.
But still… It feels like I’ve been to hell and back. It seems like I’ve been in one of those Marvel superhero movies and I’ve just survived a terrible, terrifying adventure. Of course, there are no villains here. Only me, my body and the child that’s now outside of me. One moment she was inside of me, another moment she was on my chest. Crazy, I know. The passage of birth has been a magical and transformation journey.
My own hero’s journey into motherhood.
I’ve won. Triumphed. Survived.
It feels like what I’ve just done is monumental. Like I never thought I could do anything like that. It doesn’t compare to any scholarships I’ve won, revenue targets I’ve hit or coaching clients I’ve enrolled. This is so much bigger. I never thought I could push myself to such limits and emerge on the other side not quite myself. But a different version of me.
The story of birth is as old as the world. Every woman who has given birth carries this story with her. There are so many of us. We are all connected through this specific story and yet, each passage is unique. Each child is different. But even though this experience is so private and special, all of us are in it together. My appreciation for womanhood and the female body has grown enormously.
I now see clearer. I now breathe deeper. I now inhabit myself more. I now know what my body can do, what my mind can achieve. I now know better what I’m capable of. I now am a feminine warrior. I now know who I am.
If you are reading this and you’re in doubt of whether to have children or not, it’s not my place to give you advice. It is your own decision. No one can make that decision for you. All I can tell you is that missing out on what nature has designed our bodies to do would have been a great regret for me. And that’s why I did it. Out of curiosity and a desire to create a family and gift a child to my man.
I hear a woman screaming next door… it sounds like she is in labor. Flashbacks appear. I want it to end. I can’t stand the contractions any longer. It’s agonizing.
Please, please, please. Make it stop.
“She is pushing!” I hear a bunch of nurses running through the hospital hallway and hurriedly talking. The buzzing sound of the emergency button.
Oh no, no… not again… I can’t push anymore. I don’t know how. Please tell me how. You gotta tell me what to do. I don’t know what to do. If I ever get induced again, I’m going straight for the C-section. I don’t care about the recovery process. Just not this. Not again.
Is it 3 AM yet? Is she hungry? Who is she? Why am I here? Why did I have to go through this?
Who am I?
Friday morning. December 14, 2018. I’m 38 weeks and 3 days pregnant. Belly’s huge. I’m walking like a duck.
We both know that in the next 24 hours we are going to hold a human baby in our arms that’s currently living in my belly. Both of us have no idea what that means and how it feels and more importantly, what are we going to do with it all.
We finish packing our hospital bag (the one that you’re supposed to have all ready to go from week 32 of pregnancy just in case baby decides to arrive early,) and head for the door. Of course, I take with me all kinds of shit that we eventually won’t really use: extra pairs of socks and bras, makeup (???), flowers, Christmas lights, iPad with a slideshow of the ocean, sea creatures, surfers and flowers, and other stuff that I didn’t even need. Because #youneverknow
We get in the car and Estring starts driving. Both of us are quiet. Essentially we’re on our way to meet our baby but it feels like we’re driving to the edge of a cliff of some mountain called “Childbirth.” We have no idea what to expect and how this is all going to go.
As we approach the hospital, I start being anxious and feel tears filling up my eyes. I’m scared. I feel so alone. I don’t want to do this. It feels like I am deliberately going to some place that I know will hurt so bad. The worst part is that I have no idea how it’s going to go and who I am going to be on the other side. I can’t believe so many women have gone through this and I’m not better prepared.
Am I going to die?!
But there is no way back now. It’s not like I can decide not to have this baby. This is it. This is the moment.
And the moment requires me to go forward. The first step towards making choices that are against my own desires in the present moment.
I sit in the car all clenched up. I text my sister saying that I’m scared. She messages me back telling me it’s going to be okay and that she’s with me. Estring gives me a big hug. I take a deep breath, open the door and step out.
At least we know that it’s happening today because I am scheduled for an induction (artificial bringing of labor usually when there are complications.) My biggest disappointment. My whole pregnancy was perfect but between weeks 35 and 37 weeks ultrasound scans the doctors saw no steady growth of the baby so I got diagnosed with IUGR (Intrauterine growth restriction,) which basically means that the baby was quite small for her gestational age. Now, the worst part was that the doctors couldn’t tell whether it really was a growth restriction or the baby was just small and so they recommended I get ready for induction. And so because the ultrasound scan at 38 weeks showed the same limited trajectory of growth again and there was some liquid around the heart of the baby induction was highly recommended. The main reason behind the induction was to avoid stillbirth (baby being born dead.)
Before I signed the papers agreeing to do the induction, the doctor has warned us about the potential risks of giving birth to a baby that appears to be growth restricted: increasing heart rates and blood pressures, use of forceps to get the baby out, fetal distress during labor and eventually, an emergency C-section (my worst nightmare.)
What I found fascinating in this very difficult situation are two things:
- My birth experience was highly dependent on where I live and how that country approaches birth. Although Australia is one of those countries where birth is midwife-led and is looked at as a normal life event, they operate on a preventative side: if there is a risk, they will do everything they can to avoid it. So in my case, it was a scheduled induction in order to avoid a stillbirth. In Russia, a friend told me, they would have let me continue with the pregnancy until evident signs of the baby being in distress were apparent. I’m not sure what’s the best way to go about it but I didn’t really want to risk it and so after careful research and multiple consults and reassurances, I decided to follow the doctors’ advice. I mean who wouldn’t?! You never want to play Russian roulette when it comes to the life of your unborn child you’ve been carrying and expecting for nine months.
- I could directly influence the birth date, the hour and even certain conditions of the birth of my baby. My due date was December 25th (a Capricorn baby) but with the induction on December 14th, we got ourselves a Sagittarius baby. I have further lost trust in horoscopes, natal charts, and astrology… Yes, of course, you might say that even my induction was part of some divine plan for my baby but I mostly felt in control of what will happen during my birth, including its date, the painkiller drugs and what we’re going to do each step of the way. I could have pushed for an extra 3 days to see whether the baby will come naturally. I could have asked for an earlier induction. I could have refused induction all-together and followed my gut instinct but I guess my rational brain was stronger than my gut. I wasn’t’ sure I could really trust my gut and take the risk of a possible stillbirth (try living with that for the rest of your life)… 🤷🏻♀️
In the last week before induction, I have attended three acupuncture sessions to try and bring on natural labor. My husband thought it was all bullshit but just before going in on that Friday, I was already dilated 2–3 cm (midwives do this check by simply checking the cervix opening with their fingers) which means the cervix was ripening and the baby was getting ready to come out. Midwives have also performed the “stretch-and-sweep” process in order to bring on labor which, I believe, has helped with the dilation as well.
“You’re very favorable. I can feel the head being very low,” they told me. That gave me some reassurance.
“Don’t be afraid to take pain relief medication,” my Calmbirth course facilitator, Tracey Askew Anderson, told me over the phone when I shared the news. “Induction is an artificial process and it can hit you hard and fast. You don’t know how your body will react.”
(Btw, I highly recommend the Calmbirth course, hypnobirthing, and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth if you’re getting ready for birth.)
Medication was something I didn’t want to have at all because I knew that once you start with medication, it all goes downhill from there. You need more and more until that baby is out. The risk of having a C-section is also increased once you start taking medication.
Sterilized water. Laughing gas. Morphine. Epidural.
These were my options for pain relief at the hospital but, of course, I was set on course to avoid any medication whatsoever and have a natural birth. I thought I could do it. I thought I could push through it.
And I kind of did. Just with little help from gas and morphine.
Induction did hit me hard and fast.
After the midwife has broken my waters by attaching a tiny little heart rate monitor into the baby’s head, we waited for two hours for labor to start.
That did start me feeling like it’s all about to happen but no contractions.
What did start the labor was the artificial oxytocin flowing directly into my right-hand vein through a drip. The usual dose is about one millimeter every 30 minutes. For about two hours everything was great. I was starting to feel these waves of intense sensations pulling down in my belly, just like I’ve been told, every 5–10 min but they were quite mild and manageable. The plan was to find that specific level of artificial oxytocin continuously flowing into my blood that would take me into active labor or first stage — strong and steady contractions every 3–4 minutes that would last up to 1.5 minutes each.
I knew this labor and birth would have to be quick in order to avoid infection since I tested positive with GBS (Group B streptococcus) and refused to take antibiotics.
And then at around 2 PM, the greatest show of my life has begun.
Curtains were pulled up, oxytocin had done its job. I have finally entered active labor with strong and steady contractions. My birth preferences and the whole plan of moving around, trying different positions and “riding the wave” of each contraction were quickly thrown out of the window because the pain and the pulling were extremely intense. I couldn’t breathe or walk or sit “through” it. It was really something I have never experienced before. I am not even sure how to describe it. It felt like bones and pelvis coming apart squeezing and pulling.
Every time a contraction started I would make a deep grunting noise and String would immediately start pushing really hard on my ankles — the acupressure points. It really did help. For a while.
When you’re in pain, there is that specific moment when you think you can’t do it, but you actually can. And that blurry line is infinitely expandable. It’s all in your mind.
Well, my mind gave up. Or I gave up on it. It was too much.
As soon as I pulled the gas mask on my face and started taking deep breaths in and out, I was chained to the bed. I felt that the gas helped ease the intense sensations but only for a while.
— “I can’t do it.”
— “Yes, you can.”
— “No, no, I can’t.”
— “Yes, you can.”
This was the conversation I was having with the midwife and with myself.
It actually felt like I can’t do it but I didn’t have a choice. I had to move along with it all. No way backward. Gotta push through. Literally!
And again, I’m at that blurry line of “can/can’t do it.”
I wanted whatever would help me not feel this. I wanted a way out. It was a mental and a physical prison I needed to get out of and I didn’t know how. It was like being in one of those crazy labyrinths with no way out. I was the bloody maze runner in my own childbirth!
I kept taking long deep breaths. I told String I’m ready for whatever else there is to help get through this.
But I didn’t panic. Heart rates, both baby’s and mine, were normal. Blood pressure was normal. Everything was actually quite normal and good. It was just my uterus was squeezing the baby out. The usual thing that happens…
But my uterus was moving too fast for me. Welcome, mister morphine. I have never met this uncle so I had no idea how it would be like. I knew that it would pretty much relax me and possibly make me high.
They did a quick check and I was 5 cm dilated so half way through. As I was lying on the bed in complete agony, it felt like a lifetime until they finally administered the injection in my left but cheek.
It has kicked in fairly quick. Relief. That hit of relaxation. But it wasn’t over yet.
I was high. So high that I would literally pass out for a minute or two between contractions only to wake up again to the agonizing intense pulling starting to build up. It was indeed like surfing a giant wave that you can’t jump off because it would kill you. You can’t go back. There is no rewind button. I had to ride the wave. There was no way out. Only forward.
I bet surfers are experts at childbirth 😉
“One contraction at a time. Just this one. Breathe. Breathe. It will end soon. This, too, shall pass.”
But it wasn’t passing. It felt like it would never end. It felt like I was stuck here forever lying in bed, waking up to these intense sensations and pains every two minutes. Crazy shit. I thought this is it. I will stay here forever. I couldn’t look at the clock, I didn’t know where I was and why was this happening to me. It felt like torture. It felt like misery. I wanted out. I was done. (I’ve spent about 3–4 hours in this state.)
At some point, I started feeling the pulling not only in the front of my pelvis but also in the back. And that was another level of sensations. Everything had intensified.
I told String I’m ready for whatever else is next. I didn’t care. I was ready for a C-section or whatever other section there is that will get this baby out. I wanted this to end NOW. I was done.
Epidural. The magical drug that makes it all better but could make everything worse.
Well, I was in great luck because that back pushing I felt was actually the baby’s head.
“You’re fully dilated. I can see the baby’s head! Time to push!” she told me all excited.
Oh god. Here we go. The magic words every woman in labor wants to hear. As soon as I heard that, I immediately sobered up. I was in transition.
I turned around, looked her straight in the eyes and told her to tell me what to do because I have no idea how to push. I didn’t feel the urge to push, I didn’t know how.
She guided me into a couple of sitting positions on the bed and asked me to push as hard as I can at the end of every contraction like I would do a poo.
A second midwife appeared and started taking notes. Both of these women were doing something they do every day for work… I turned around and told them that their job is crazy.
I was definitely in transition.
It felt like I had to poo a watermelon. It was merely impossible. The baby’s head was moving along by what felt like 0.00001 millimeters. The midwife was holding a warm compress on my bottom in order to avoid tearing. String was at my head side and not watching. Good decision on his part.
I didn’t care about anyone and anything. I was on a mission to get the baby out. I was unstoppable. I was screaming my lungs out. Nothing else mattered. Time had stopped. I was an animal. Everything in my core was concentrated on pushing this baby out.
I changed positions again lying on the bed with my knees high up. I tried pushing the watermelon again but it wasn’t going anywhere. I was stuck. The midwife asked if I want to feel the baby’s head. I put my two fingers in between my legs and felt something hard and slippery where my vagina used to be. The watermelon was my baby’s head. Crazy shit. I pushed some more but nothing was moving.
At that point, I realized that I could be lying here forever and just pushing. It felt like constipation 2.0. I didn’t want to be constipated with a watermelon forever. I was so over this.
So I decided that this is it. I pulled my right leg up and used a leg rest to push myself into it and with the next contraction I decided to give it all and pushed so hard, and kept pushing and felt lots of burning and with this push, the baby’s head was born. The midwife told me to push hard one more time. And this is where the baby’s body was born.
Oh god. It’s over.
As soon as she placed this creature (aka the watermelon that just came out of me) on my chest, a crowd of nurses and doctors flew in and started doing things around that felt like a bit of panic. I saw a lot of blood down below. I felt an injection in my right thigh and was told to give a little push again. This is where I birthed the placenta. They lifted the placenta and showed me a big sack of blood and liquid. It was weird. They told me I tore front and back and they would be stitching me up. I lost 800 ml of blood.
I didn’t care. All I was focused on was this little moving creature on my chest. It was covered with a bit of blood and a lot of vernix (white gooey stuff.) This creature all curled up, wrinkly and weird was looking at me and looking at String.
It has recognized us. It knew us.
“It’s a baby! It’s a baby!” I kept saying with tears were running down my cheeks. I looked at String, he was crying and laughing. It was that surreal moment I have imagined for the whole long nine months. My baby on my chest. Was it all a dream?!
After five hours of active labor baby Zoe was born at 8.13 PM weighing 2.47 kg and measuring 46 cm.
After all the stitching was done, they all left us to enjoy time with the baby. I helped it latch to my breast and it started sucking. It was bizarre.
After a couple of hours, another midwife came in, asked dad to hold the baby and helped me get up and get to the shower. I felt like a wreck. Like a train has run over me. But I also felt a sense of relief and quiet excitement. I felt overwhelmed.
She had weighed and measured the baby and recommended that Zoe goes to ICU (intensive care unit) for the first day or two just to make sure she is okay as she was born just below the minimal weight and because of growth restriction. I was secretly relieved because I really didn’t know what to do with her at this point…
We have cleaned up, packed our bags and headed to the ICU to leave Zoe there. I was in a wheelchair with a catheter attached to my bladder. I could barely walk.
There were so many tiny babies in the ICU! We said goodbye to her and headed to our room in the hospital to have a rest after what felt like the longest day ever. It was 1.30 AM.
I couldn’t sleep for the next two nights. I was having flashbacks and nightmares. Every three hours we were waking up, I was getting my catheter full of wee and walking to the ICU to feed our baby. She was so tiny, so fragile, so beautiful.
Colostrum (milk for the baby in the first few days) came in fast. I was hand expressing it and storing into little syringes to leave at the ICU so they could top her up when we’re not there.
Hour by hour it was all coming together. The whole experience was syncing in. Little Zoe was in great condition and we took her with us in the room on our third night. I was terrified. She started crying uncontrollably and we pressed the yellow button for help. An experienced middle age lady came in, picked her up, said she has wind, gave her a couple of pats on the bum, Zoe burped a couple of times and went to sleep peacefully. We thought it was magic.
We got discharged the next day after spending three nights in the hospital. We had our last 100 checks with all the possible doctors and nurses, packed our bags, put Zoe in the car capsule and headed for the exit.
And so that was it. Life with a baby began.
I was traumatized. I said I will never go through this again. It was insane.
First two weeks was madness. I was crying and recovering. I was barely walking. I had to learn how to breastfeed, not sleep, and take care of the baby.
After lots of massages, talking and healing (plus two birth debriefs with the hospital manager and Tracey,) I realized that it could have been a lot worse. The hospital manager reassured me that I did really well for a first time mum. Other mums were amazed that I didn’t get an epidural.
After three months I feel proud and powerful. I’m not ready for another child and birth yet but I know I will have another one someday. We now have a beautiful little girl who I’m falling in love with every day. And day by day I am becoming that much more expansive version of me.
We are now a mother and a father. We are now parents. And she is our daughter. She is a part of us and we are a part of her.
She is so precious and I wouldn’t have had her any other way. No, that’s not true. I would have liked to have an ecstatic birth as I had imagined but the Universe had something else in store for me.
It is what it is.
We are where we’re at.
This too shall pass.
Everything I have been through in the last three months is absolutely worth it. That’s what any mother will tell you.
Love heals it all. It mends all the broken pieces and human experiences we think are impossible.
If you have ever given birth, I stand tall with you. If we could do this, we could do anything. Cheers to our newly found reservoirs or power, depth and love.
- Celebrating 1 year of podcasting
- Pregnancy Audio Documentary – Pilot
- Pregnancy Audio Documentary – Part 1
- Pregnancy Audio Documentary – Part 2
- Pregnancy Audio Documentary – Part 3
- Pregnancy Audio Documentary – Part 4
- Pregnancy Audio Documentary – Part 5
- Pregnancy Audio Documentary – Part 6
Tools & Resources Mentioned
People/Blogs to Follow
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth: Updated With New Material by Ina May Gaskin – Drawing upon her thirty-plus years of experience, Ina May Gaskin, the nation’s leading midwife, shares the benefits and joys of natural childbirth by showing women how to trust in the ancient wisdom of their bodies for a healthy and fulfilling birthing experience. Based on the female-centered Midwifery Model of Care, Ina May’s Guide to Natural Childbirth gives expectant mothers comprehensive information on everything from the all-important mind-body connection to how to give birth without technological intervention.
- Mindful Hypnobirthing: Hypnosis and Mindfulness Techniques for a Calm and Confident Birth by Sophie Fletcher – Hypnotherapist and experienced doula Sophie Fletcher shares with you the secrets to having a safe, natural and positive birth. Using a powerful combination of mindfulness, hypnosis and relaxation techniques, Sophie will ensure you feel genuinely excited and completely prepared for birth.