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  • Ana Sofia Valdes

Chronicle of a Birth Foretold

I have been trying and failing to write about my birth for months. In part, it's been challenging because, for me, every detail is fundamental, and deciding what to leave out has been close to impossible. The other reason is that no words can describe how my world was rocked that day.

With the fear of falling short, here it is.

Frankfurt, Germany

On July 30th, 2020, at 9 AM, I stood in my kitchen and felt water dripping down my leg, it wasn't much, nothing like in the movies, but those drops were the beginning of what was about to be a very long day.

In a very normal tone, I told Marco "my water just broke," and he didn't believe me. He asked if I was sure; he asked more than once if I wasn't peeing myself; I said I could tell the difference. I was sure, Max was coming, somehow my body felt different.

We were four days before my due date; I had been having irregular contractions all week that intensified the night before. We were expecting this to happen, we had been preparing for months, yet it was still hard to believe that the moment was finally here.

I was surprisingly calm. We called the hospital and were told to take our time to get ready and come between 11 and 12. Marco hopped in the shower, and I called my mom and woke her up. In Mexico, it was 2 AM, but I didn't care, this was huge news, and it was already horrible that she was halfway across the world (thanks covid); she needed to know.

While I was on the phone, something was happening in the shower, Marco was starting to realize what was happening. We were having a baby! And he went crazy. He was running around getting ready in a hurry because he had decided he needed to go to the office and file his taxes. Yes, at that moment, his biggest worry was that he hadn't filed his taxes. I told him it was nonsense, but I didn't push. He left only to come back 30 minutes later. He got to the car, sat still for 30 min and came back. He needed time to process what was happening. After that and throughout the following hours, he was steady. He was everything I needed. He was my rock.

We got to the hospital, registered and I got my first check-up, everything was fine. Labor was on its way, but it would take a while.

My plan had always been to stay home as long as possible, and when I asked if I could go, the nurse told me that I couldn't. She saw I was determined, so after a little back and forth she said she couldn't allow me to go home, but she suggested that I take a walk and said my next check-ups would be at 4 and 9 PM and as of then I would need antibiotics so I would need to stay put. When your water breaks, you are at a higher risk for infections, and so they have to give you antibiotics every 8 hours. Usually, if your labor is not progressing after 24 hours, they have to look at their options to avoid complications. And so I left, the rule-abiding German in Marco wasn’t happy I had "escaped", he kept asking if it was ok to leave, but I knew it was safe and better to be home.

We had a light lunch and went out for a walk, and that is when I felt it: my first strong contraction, the first of many that would simultaneously destroy me and make me stronger. I remember exactly where I was when I had it, I remember I was surprised that the pain was in my back more than in my belly, I remember it as if I was looking at me from outside, having an out-of-body experience. After that, they kept coming and surprising me everytime.

When I went back to the hospital for my next checkup, as I sat in the waiting room, alone, in an uncomfortable chair, not being able to breathe because of the facemask, the contractions got closer together, longer and a lot more intense. After 45 minutes, they moved me to a room where they checked Max's heartbeat and the intensity of my contractions. They had warned me that because of covid, my husband was just allowed to come in for the last stage of labor, so when they told me to call my husband, I was static. They also moved me to the LDR (labor, delivery, and recovery room), and I started throwing up from the pain, so I thought, God, this will go fast. I will have my baby in a couple of hours.

That didn't happen. I spent the next hours switching between the tub, the birthing ball, and the shower. Walking around the hospital's hallways, the parking lot, and going up and down the stairs. Every couple of minutes, I would look at Marco, and he would press my hips as strong as he could, holding me, containing me, alleviating some of the intense and profound pain I was feeling.

By 9 AM of Friday 31st, 24 hours after my water breaking, I was not progressing. Dilation was stuck at 1cm, and although I know this shouldn't be the measure, it is what I was being told, and it was all I had to go on. I didn't understand what was happening and why, although contractions were within the parameters of an advanced stage of labor, I was still no closer to my baby.

At this point, I started to consider having an epidural. For months I was set on no epidural for a couple of reasons:

  1. My mother had a horrible experience with the epidural when I was born, and for years, that story had been in my head, scaring me more than the actual birth.

  2. I was convinced that it was best for my baby and the birth process.

  3. I wanted to be in the water, during labor and possibly during birth. With the epidural, this is no longer an option.

  4. In Germany, there are other methods available in particular "laughing gas". Women use it towards the end of labor when pain is highest and it provides momentary relief. I wanted to try this not so invasive methods.

Still, it started to sound appealing so we talked to the hebamme, and she wasn't excited about the idea, but she wasn't discouraging. We decided to wait a couple more hours and then decide. Around noon, I felt my body was about to give up. It was 38 degrees. I hadn't eaten anything, the taste of water was all I could manage; I had only had 2 hours of sleep, if you can call that sleep, I was exhausted. My legs started shaking, and I was beginning to have a hard time breathing through the contractions. They rechecked me, and I was progressing a bit faster, but Max was not ready; they also realized that he had turned. That is when we decided to get the anesthesia. It would give Max time to get in position and give me some time to rest.

That is the thing about birth plans. It's great to have one; making it will help you prepare for birth, but you need to be ready to throw it out the window and adapt to the circumstances without considering it a failure. You can plan all you want, but in the end, you need to listen to your body, and only in that second can you determine what is best.

In Mexico, my family was also getting anxious in part because that is just the normal reaction, in part because they were so far but also because, for them, time seemed even longer because of the time difference. My mom had gone to bed on Wednesday, knowing it was starting, then spent all day Thursday and all night waiting, it was now Friday morning, and she was worried. It doesn´t help that in Mexico I would for sure have had a C-section by that point, they are not so patient and nature oriented as in Germany.

I got the epidural; in the end, I think Marco suffered more than I did. After that, for two hours, I "rested", I still felt the contractions, I was still in pain, I could still walk around because the dosage was low, but at least I could breathe again and lay down without feeling my back was going to break.

And then from one second to another, I started feeling them again. This time, they felt like they were taking the life out of me, I tried pushing the button for more anesthesia, but it didn't work. This was it. The end was in sight.

The following two hours were intense, parts of them I remember as clear as if it was yesterday and there are parts that are a big blur. I remember changing positions a lot, trying to find what felt more comfortable. I remember sweat dripping down my face, and I remember holding, well destroying, Marco's hand. At some point, I was standing, hugging Petra, the angel that received Max, and I told her in tears that I couldn't keep going. She answered that this was the first of many times my son would push me to my limits but that I should trust that he knew when to stop before he breaks me. She guided me through pushing and helped me vocalize my pushing. I was yelling like one yells when you are in pain like you see in movies, but it wasn't helping, she started moaning, and I followed her. It was a sound from within, it helped because it allowed me to breathe and push simultaneously and because it helps you connect with your animal instinct.

I remember hearing a woman in the other room; she was in the same situation as I was, and it almost sounded like a dialogue. She would moan, and I would moan until I heard the cry of her baby. Why was she done and I wasn't! I could feel Max's head going down and back up, and I wanted to reach in and pull him out, it is a horrible feeling because there is nothing you can do and yet it all depends on you. I just needed to keep doing what I was doing.

Marco was holding me tight, and he whispered in my ear look who just came in the door. It was the doctor. The protocol is that the doctor needs to be present for birth in case of any complications. And seeing him, knowing that I was so close, gave me the strength to push three more times, and with my eyes closed, I heard Marco crying. I looked down, and there he was, turning my world upside down. I reached and pulled him closer to me, as the hebamme yelled because I was pulling him too much, but I didn't care. We had waited long enough, he needed me to hold him, and I needed him as much. I don't remember if he was crying or not. I don't know if I was. I just remember his stare and his strong and tiny finger holding mine. There was so much going on around me, but I wasn't there. I was in our own little world. He was no longer inside me, but he was a part of me, a part of us. He was mine, and I was his.

It would take me weeks and months to process what happened that day, what happened that moment when I held him for the first time. Labor was chaos, and birth was peace. A peace I hadn't felt, love that I didn't know possible. As Petra had told me, this was my rebirth.

In a second, I went from zero to mom, from feeling love to having love overpower me, from dreaming of him to living my dream. A year later, as I write this, I close my eyes, and I can see him at that moment, looking at me, and I am still overwhelmed by that love and I am eternally grateful that I get to feel it for the rest of my life.

In medical terms, there are 4 stages of birth: labor, delivery, after birth, and recovery. For me, this is how they felt.

Labor was about us, about Marco and me. I had never been so connected to him, so in sync, he knew exactly what to do and what I needed, and every second of pain and relief, I was grateful for having him by my side, for going on this life journey with me and for bringing into our world this life full of light. It was about us becoming parents, a new family, and falling in love with each other in a whole new way.

Delivery was about me, about pushing me to places I never thought my body and mind could go, about realizing how strong I am and how beautiful and perfect my body is.

Afterbirth was all about Max, about him taking over my life, my heart, my world. It was about realizing that he is and always will be my everything.

Recovery is still happening. It´s about transformation, about processing my new role as a mother, about me finding myself, about figuring out the new me.

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