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Joyfully Planned: My Daughter's Birth Story by Armelle Honkou

Before I dive into the events of the day my daughter graced this earth, I must go back at least three years before her arrival when I decided to become a mother. I was twenty-seven, and planning was my way to combat anxious feelings as somebody who suffered from anxiety. Planning gives me the sense that I am in control. It allows me to function. So I planned and executed the tactical events that would lead me to become a mother.

I started exercising regularly, eating well, and getting my wellness checkups and blood work done. I organized my finances and prepared our home. I started reading about parenting, pregnancy, and birth stories. I became pregnant with my daughter in the Spring of 2018. It was the most joyous day when the nurse confirmed the test positive. My husband, who was my fiancé at the time, and I read and watched videos about birthing methods. I knew I wanted a midwife.

We found out that Touro Hospital offered a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) staff. We toured the hospital birthing unit with the Chief Labor and Delivery Nurse. We felt at peace right away that it was the next best option. My first preference was home birth, however, because it was my first child, I didn't want to risk either one of our lives in case of complications. I thought it was best to deliver in the birthing center at the hospital.

From the first prenatal visit with the midwife staff, the team understood what I was looking for in our care - unmedicated birth, support, and reinforcement of my choices. After every visit, the team reassured me that all was going well and I was on the right track.

On the day I gave birth, I started to feel sharp pains in my abdomen around midnight. It was hard for me to sleep that night. I woke up early to get ready for work; the pain was more constant. My fiancé suggested that we visit the midwives. We called, and they were not available in the usual office, so we had to go to another office. After examination, the Midwife confirmed that I was 4 centimeters dilated and added that I was having the baby that day. It was at this time that I found out I was having contractions. She asked me if my water had broken. I remembered the day prior, I woke up in a pool of wetness, thinking that I had peed on the bed. The Midwife gave us options to go directly to the hospital or home. I chose to go home and labor away from the hospital environment for as long as possible.

At home, my partner started packing while I was walking around and doing labor exercises. The contractions were getting stronger. After a few hours at home, we went to the hospital. I labor in the bathtub filled with warm water, in the shower, and on the floor. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore, so I got on the bed and attempted to remain calm. The pain was excruciating, and at one point, I complained that the IV was hurting and yelled at the nurse to take the IV off my hand. I asked to get the epidural because I couldn't take the pain any longer. The Midwife advised me that I had planned for an unmedicated birth and coached me through breathing mechanisms. I calmed down and she reassured me everything was alright.

She offered me an oxygen mask instead, which helped regulate my breathing. She checked my cervix and said at any minute now, I could start pushing. She called on the assisting nurses, and they started preparing for the delivery. After about fifteen minutes of pushing, I delivered my daughter at thirty-eight weeks. All the pain I felt for the past sixteen hours evaporated from my body. The Midwife placed her on my chest for skin-to-skin contact. My feelings at that moment were euphoric.

I spent a lot of time planning for my daughter's arrival, and I allowed room in the decision-making for the unpredictable. However, part of me felt that I neglected to tune into the process. I didn't attend any birthing classes and I had difficulties maintaining calm breathing practices during labor.

Nonetheless, I accomplished my goal to deliver naturally without medication. I counted on instinct and believed that my body could support the labor and delivery process.

My daughter is now three years old and she is lively, joyful, and thriving. There are certain things I am doing differently for the second time around.

Each pregnancy presents different challenges, and I am learning and adjusting accordingly. - Armelle


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