I always knew I was a very independent person, but never knew how independent I was until I went through my first pregnancy while my husband was deployed. We found out we were expecting about two weeks before he left. As soon as the home pregnancy tests turned positive (and I bought one of every kind off the shelf, just to make sure), I called Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton to make an appointment. We had no issues getting in for the consultation visit to estimate the due date, but it took a little more sweet talking to get scheduled for our first sonogram – just one day shy of the ten week mark, the morning of my husband’s deployment day. We heard the heartbeat together, and we felt our lives changing for the better.
I prepared for my baby’s birth as if my husband, or anyone for that matter, were unavailable. His return date was uncertain and changed only about one hundred times, so I did not even factor his presence into my preparations and expectations. I set the following goals:
· Healthy baby
· Comfortable labor and delivery
· Non-medicated vaginal birth
Thanks to my coworker friends, I found the Hypnobabies birth method and thought it would be the best approach in helping me meet my goal of having an unmedicated vaginal birth. However, the Hypnobabies course was not offered on base, so I found Melissa Furioli, HCHI, HCHD and a Hypnobabies class through Babies in Bloom and paid for the class out of pocket. Hypnobabies was/is a huge time commitment, but I enjoyed learning the deep relaxation techniques and positive birth visualizations. Everything I learned and practiced came together on the big day.
Next, I searched for a doula. While the care I received at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton was excellent, I wanted someone who would be there just for me, whether or not my husband was present. I wanted to make sure that I had an advocate who was looking out for my health and my baby’s; someone who knew my birth plan, and would help me stay focused to achieve my birth goal. I found that person in Dara De Soto, CD,HCHD, CLEC. The first meeting I had with Dara, she took a full assessment of my health history and pregnancy, and the prenatal care I received to date. Dara was experienced with supporting births at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, and led me to my OB/GYN, whom I saw for the rest of my pregnancy.
I was starting to feel pregnancy symptoms at the beginning of my second trimester, and acted on Dara’s recommendation for prenatal chiropractic care. Throughout the rest of my pregnancy, I saw Dr. Christina Binder at Elevation Family Chiropractic three times per week for adjustments with the Webster technique, which prevented pressure build-up in my back and hips, helped me maintain good posture, and helped open up my hips and keep everything perfectly lined up as the pregnancy continued.
Without anyone at home to rub my back or feet, I also made sure to keep up with monthly prenatal body massages and regular pedicures because let’s face it – there’s really no amount of self-care and pampering that is too much once you get to a certain point in your pregnancy!
I started my maternity leave about two weeks before my due date. I had chucks pads all over the place (dinner table chairs, couch, driver’s seat of the car), and cooked up about a month’s worth of freezer meals. Luckily, my husband made it home in time to enjoy the last couple weeks of the pregnancy. He met Dara about a week before the due date, and we reviewed our birth plan.
I felt great heading into week 39 as I continued practicing my Hypnobabies methods. However, like all mothers, I was getting anxious to meet my little one! I scoured the internet and tried all the “old wives tales” to induce labor. With no avail, I went to Dr. Alex Stampbach, LAC on the Tuesday before my due date for an acupuncture appointment, to assess and balance my energy and help my body relax. Dr. Alex said if nothing happened on Friday, come back. Sure enough, like clockwork, pre-labor started on Friday around 4AM on my baby’s due date.
I had regular but intense pressure waves (contractions) coming every 5 to 10 minutes that entire day. I started listening to a playlist of my Hypnobabies maintenance tracks and Early Labor, and coasted through my day at home (eating my meals, moving around, working on little art projects, trying to nap, etc). My husband actually had a flight scheduled that afternoon and was worried since he wouldn't be available once airborne (between noon to around 5pm... which really means 6 or 7pm in Marine Aviation spouse world!). I was very confident that my pre-labor would continue on since this was our first pregnancy, and told him to go about his day as planned; worst case, I call our Dara to come stay with me until he gets home.
Sure enough, I was in the same place as I was in the morning when he came home... Just breathing through the non-stop pressure waves, listening to my recordings, and centered (awake and alert, and mentally blocking out whatever discomfort I may have had with the pressure waves). We went to bed that night, as best as I could. Pressure waves continued through the night, and then I felt my water break; not a gush or trickle, but a decent amount that I knew I hadn't "peed" around 3 or 4AM. The pressure waves subsided, and I gave Dara a call around 5AM because I felt "uncomfortable" and couldn’t find any positions to relax. Dara advised me to try to rest, hydrate as much as possible, and check in in the morning.
I felt so much better after catching a few winks between pressure waves, but continued feeling "discomfort" after a little breakfast and moving around the house. Dara arrived around noon, and we went into action. With Dara's coaching, I started feeling looser throughout (a lot of work on the exercise ball, stairs, and maintaining overall mobility), and I continued working through my pressure waves in various positions with support from my husband. I was told the waves were consistent (coming on every 3 to 5 mins, in 45 to 60+ sec spans), but I didn't really perceive them enough to time myself at all, nor do I really remember because I was using everything I practiced with Hypnobabies.
My husband, who is so incredibly smart and prepared, packed the car prior to Dara's arrival, so when it was time to go, all I had to do was hop in the car. The 20 min drive from home to hospital felt like forever, and I had one looooong non-stop pressure wave from the moment I got in the car, the entire ride, the walk across the parking lot and into the hospital, our pit stop to the bathroom, the ride up to the L&D deck, the walk all the way down the hall to check in, and into the triage room. I have no idea how long all that took, but I perceived just one giant pressure wave that entire time, which I worked through with my headphones on, centered and completely aware while walking and talking. We were admitted around 4:45PM, at 8cm dilated and 0 station. I felt great when I heard that!
My OB was on deck and she checked in with us; she gave the thumbs up on how things were progressing and promised to be back to catch the baby when time came. I felt comfortable knowing my OB was there to care for me, since she knew how hard I worked to prepare for this birth. A month prior to our expected due date, I reviewed my birth plan with my OB and Dara. I made sure to include my preference for a heplock (vs. a full IV) and a wireless fetal heartrate monitor to ensure I would have full mobility during labor rather than being confined to my bed. These measures provided us, our OB, and her medical team the ability to continue caring for us, and quickly intervene in the event of complications.
My husband, Dara, and I spent about 10 hrs in the room, working through various positions to bring baby down. However, this time went by so quickly for me! Dara continued finding ways to keep me physically active, relaxed, and comfortable while my husband was providing support. In my mind, I felt great (hydrated, good energy, comfortable, safe). I didn’t feel the rush to get baby out as long as she and I were both healthy; I mean, we made it to 40 weeks. What’s another 10+ hours?! My OB had used Hypnobabies herself, and was on board with letting us take our time as long as our heartrates were good and no one was distressed.
We had a cervical check at one point, and our baby was engaged and we were ready to start pushing. I recall asking Dara if we were starting to transition, to which I was told we were way past that point. In my mind, I was bummed I didn't listen to my Hypnobabies “Transition” playlist as planned, but we continued on!
My husband told me pushing took a total of about 3 hrs, active on and off. Again, I didn't really perceive this since I continued doing my thing with the expectation that pressure waves would get more intense. I primarily focused on my visualizations at this point, as I was seeing in my mind the physical activities I believed were occurring within my body and needing to occur to continue our progress. I continued focusing and breathing on my own between “center” and “off.”
Next thing I know, I was in a very comfortable position, bearing down, and I felt and mentally visualized my baby’s head coming down and out of the birth canal. I think my Dr and her crew rushed in to the room at this point; I just remember meeting my baby for the first time, feeling relief, and seeing the million dollar smile on my husband's face from behind the Dr's smiling face! A perfect blessing at 8 lbs, 20 inches, ten precious fingers and ten precious toes.
My baby was taken by the pediatric team for evaluations, and my husband went with her. My OB started on my post-delivery recovery as I was losing a lot of blood after the long labor, and Dara was beside me the entire time. I was still using my Hypnobabies techniques as Dara and the Dr were talking me through the recovery process. I did not feel any pain, and I felt completely comfortable and safe through all of this. I gathered my delivery stats as such: 1st degree tear and minor lacerations somewhere. The Dr said I did very well, no stitches would be necessary, minor damage, and normal recovery expected.
A couple hours later, the new Leighton family of 3 finally gathered and it was beautiful!! My husband had already started skin-to-skin contact, which our daughter Avalon just absolutely soaked up. I was incredibly tired and mentally drained at this point since I had to focus and use Hypnobabies method for about 36 hours straight. I felt fortunate that I didn’t feel any aches or pain postpartum, and owe this to the excellent prenatal chiropractic care, hydration and energy boosts (ie: honey sticks, and PB & banana sandwiches), and continuous movement through various birth positions. I believe each adjustment helped prep my body for the physical changes it was undergoing while growing my baby, and optimized the chances for a comfortable delivery by ensuring the spine and hips were lined up and engaged. It’s called “labor” for a reason(!), and nutritious food and plenty of water were essential to maintaining good physical condition through my long labor.
I believe everything in my birth plan came together (minus the "c-section detour" box of requests I included, just in case) and our outcome was more amazing than I envisioned.
Our postpartum plan was to have my mom stay over and help for about two weeks. However, it became very clear that we had extremely different parenting approaches and expectations around the house. Her visit was cut short after three days, and my husband and I did very well finding our new rhythm as a family. In retrospect, being very independent Type-A planners and a solid team, I should have known that my husband and I would be judicious with our time and find our new normal together. I felt that friends and family meant well, but were disruptive for the first precious weeks. I later realized that for me, these visits felt more for others to feel involved and connected to the baby and taking away from us rather than replenishing in spirit.
Overall, I am so thankful to my body for allowing me to be able to move about and take care of my baby. I didn’t know what self-care was before my pregnancy. I barely had time to do the bare minimum to get myself out the door and work, work, work. However, having the full responsibility of carrying out a healthy pregnancy for myself, my husband, and our baby changed my mentality very quickly as I set out to find the best resources available to me in meeting our goals for a healthy pregnancy, “easy” delivery, and most importantly, a healthy baby and mom. I truly believe that everything I did during my pregnancy paid off, as I had an “uneventful” (albeit, long) L&D. I was extremely nervous about my husband feeling left out of the entire experience since he “missed” the pregnancy. However, our doula did an incredible job to make us feel like a team of three (and a half, because our baby did her fair share of work, too!), and engaged as my birth partner through it all. Dara was able to show my husband how best to support me throughout L&D, and later on said that it would have been an extremely difficult call for him to stay with me or go with our baby had Dara not been present. He said he was able to make the split second decision (and the right decision!) to go with our baby because I would have Dara by my side. My husband and I are so thankful to have such a positive birth experience, and plan on doing everything the same way if and when we are ready for our next blessed adventure.
Lynette Leighton lives in Oceanside, CA with her husband (a USMC pilot), daughter, and two cats. She is juggling her roles as a full-time mom and part-time Senior Environmental Planner.