SARA MORGAN - BECKETT - British journalist/writer SaraMorganBeckett.com sharing her NYC birth story.
When my husband and I tried for a baby straight after getting married, I wasn't sure if we’d have problems. I was 38 and he was 37. Anything you read online tells you your chances to conceive drop dramatically after 35. So to optimize our chances I read “Talking care of your fertility” and, to make me feel like I was doing something proactive, I started having weekly acupuncture sessions. Not being a fan of needles, this was a first for me but Rachel, my Brooklyn acupuncturist was amazing, explaining everything to put me at my ease. During the second or third session, while I was zoning out, a motionless porcupine in the dark, I had what I can only describe as a vision. In my mind, I was holding a baby with jet black hair, the baby was a girl. I had this whole 'circle of life' sensation. I thought of my parents and when I would see them again once they passed, I thought about how much they meant to me. Then the realization dawned that I’d lived up till now not knowing my child and what a life-changing impact they would make. The impact of being the most important person I'd ever meet. “How bizarre!” I thought. I mentally came back in the room and told Rachel about my experience.
“I wouldn't say this if I didn’t think you were receptive,” she said. “But I think that was your daughter talking to you.”
Up until that point I’d never thought about gender, my thoughts had been a swirl of morning temperatures, ovulation and whether the sperm had met the egg yet. What I took from this vision was that we were creating a person with a soul. It suddenly occurred to me that this was bigger than the biology of it all. I found some comfort in it and relaxed. A week later I found out I was 5 weeks pregnant.
The pregnancy was pretty smooth sailing from what I remember. Time has dulled my recollections of morning sickness, although I do remember suffering quite badly the first trimester, and how my sense of smell was so strong I could smell a drain at 50 paces, then there were the hormonal rashes, the carpel tunnel pains, the insomnia. But I look back and say it was all wonderful. My biggest cravings were British snacks which wasn’t ideal living in New York City, but friends sent care packages and it satiated my need for walkers crisps and real cadburys. At around 37 weeks I started to believe the baby was going to come early, I had Braxton Hicks, but everyone said I would probably go over with a first pregnancy. I’d continued the acupuncture throughout the pregnancy and a week before I was due I had the first induction session. I was told I would need four or five before labour would start. The following evening I had a cup of raspberry leaf tea, some wasabi peas and some salted caramel ice cream. I posted a photo of this concoction on Instagram.
A few hours later in bed at 1am I said to my husband, Darren, “I keep needing the loo but nothing is coming out.” We looked at each other and slowly I went “ohhhhh!” After 5 trips to the loo, the penny dropped that it could be the start of contractions. The cramping feeling came every 20 minutes or so. We got excited. This was it! We ate cheese on toast at 3am and sat up together waiting. At 4am Darren told me he was getting tired.
“Sleep,” I said. “One of us should.”
There was no way I was going to, the contractions weren’t at all bad but they wouldn't allow me to sleep. By 5am I was face timing my mother in Spain, 6 hours ahead. She agreed I was in labour. I spoke to two of my best friends, both mums, one in the UK, one in Canada. It was a real international effort of labour support. I laboured at home until 1pm until the contractions were 3 minutes apart and went to NYU in the cab. I remember the driver saying to my husband “She’s going to be fine, look at her taking those contractions like a champ.” Remembering my birth class and Hypnobirthing book, I was breathing low and controlled. On arrival at the hospital I was told in triage I was 6 cms dilated. Our doula, Abby arrived and she was the calming influence she had been throughout the later stages of the pregnancy. Abby had come up with a great idea to have a code word for me to use if I definitely wanted an epidural. She mentioned another client had the code words “peanut butter” and asked me what mine would be.
“Potato salad,” I suggested.
“Would you like to eat potato salad during labour?” Abby asked.
“Not unless there was a barbecue happening.” I joked.
There was no way of telling what my pain threshold would be but Hypnobirthing had strengthened my mindset and I was determined to have as little intervention as possible, unless strictly necessary. I certainly wasn't ruling out an epidural and favored the idea of a late and light one.
Three hours after arriving at hospital the contractions were coming hard and fast, one on top of the other. Darren looked concerned and told me I had turned ashen. The pain I felt at that time can best be described as ‘medieval'. A shower had done nothing to lessen the pain, I was still only 7 cms and I was finding it hard to catch my breath.
“Potato salad!” I blurted out.
Darren and Abby stared back at me saying nothing.
“Potato salad, I’ve said it! What are you waiting for? Get someone!”
Their faces changed from blank to action and the anesthetist was called. It was 15 long minutes before it was administered, they had to wait for a moment between the body shuddering contractions, and it was another few minutes before I felt it working.
After this I felt ‘back in the room’. Prior to this I was not present, the pain was so distracting I was disconnected from what was about to be the most momentous event in my life, the birth of my first child. Now I could regroup, I still felt contractions but on a much more manageable level. We had made a playlist of music I love to listen to, but we didn’t listen to any of it. The three of us chatted. The initial floatiness I experienced from the epidural turned my mind to music festivals and I chatted about this to my musician husband and lovely Doula. Occasionally I’d remember I had to push a baby out of my vagina but I was happy the intense pain had subsided. I was out of it. Thankfully that feeling passed as I didn't want to feel ‘drugged up’ I wanted to be present and aware.
Seven hours of manageable contractions later, the baby had not moved down as much was hoped, so this was going to mean greater pushing from me. The doctor manually dilated me and broke my water. Finally it was decided it was time to push. It’s strange when you’re told to do this because you’re not quite sure you’re doing it right, you just bare down, but eventually I got the encouragement I needed from the room. The crown of the head was showing. Then it disappeared back. It wasn’t until that moment I realised, pushing is more two steps forward, one step back progress. I mustered up as much strength as I had and continued. More pushing. Finally the head. 27 minutes later,.my daughter was born with a full shock of black hair. Delphine was due August 26th but she came a week early on the 18th making her a Leo, just like me.