This week's Delmarva Community Birth Story comes from Sara. Sara Shultz lives in Dorchester County and is a wife, doula, and mom of two energetic boys.
For as long as I could remember I've always wanted to be a mom. I couldn't wait. So much so that 2 months after getting married, we were expecting. I was so excited to be pregnant even through the nausea. Until one night at 6 weeks I woke up to cramping and bleeding. I didn't know a lot about pregnancy yet but I knew enough to know this wasn't a good sign. I hadn't even had my first prenatal appointment yet but already had to call into the after hours on-call midwife. Her calming voice was comforting. She put scripts in for blood work and an ultrasound. I immediately got the blood work done the next day but the ultrasound was scheduled for a day after that. The wait was excruciating. But that morning to my surprise the bleeding stopped. I thought maybe I was in the clear. The next day the midwife called to tell me that progesterone was low and I needed to supplement and to go back to get more blood work to see if my hcg hormone levels were doubling. The fear I felt was overwhelming. I hated that if I was threatening to miscarry that there was nothing I could do. Thankfully my blood work said that my levels were doubling meaning the pregnancy is sustaining and the ultrasound showed a healthy baby.
This news was great to hear but I would continue to bleed off and on for another 2 weeks. This news did not help my anxiety. I was living in fear that at any given moment my body would fail me and I'd lose my baby. I started to disconnect with my pregnancy. It was my way of protecting myself from the perceived fear of losing my baby. It seemed as if the further I got along the higher my anxiety levels were. My pregnancy was pretty low risk and I was planning to deliver at a birth center but I wasn't convinced of this. When I found out I was having a boy I wanted to be excited and on the outside I was but that made my anxiety worse because he now had an identity and even a name. As I got closer to delivery at one of my appointments I decided to open up to one of the midwives about how I was feeling. I felt immense guilt that I had spent my entire pregnancy in fear instead of embracing it. I felt terrible that I was feeling this way rather than being grateful that I got a second chance. If 1 in 4 women experience loss then I had beat that statistic and therefore should be grateful. I'm so very thankful for this midwife who took the time to help me process this but most importantly she validated my feelings. I decided at 39 weeks to leave work and start my maternity leave instead of working up until delivery. That was conveniently the last week of my pregnancy. That week I attempted to work on my psyche and address my anxiety. I knew from childbirth class that it could impact my labor and I did not want that. I couldn't control the outcome but I could control my mind. I can't say I completely got rid of my anxiety but I definitely relaxed and took time to connect with my baby boy and with my husband. I even felt some excitement, a feeling I hadn't genuinely felt since I found out I was expecting.
At exactly 40 weeks around 10:45pm I was relaxing in bed drinking a cup of tea when my water broke. I got up and went straight to the bathroom. I knew to look for the color to make sure it was clear then I called my midwife. Labor had not started yet and that brought back some anxiety. Thankfully it was only a matter of 20 minutes then I felt my first contraction. It was around 11pm and I sent my husband to bed and I went downstairs to try to rest. Contractions were pretty intense but I was proud of myself for how I was able to manage. I used some hypno-birthing techniques and a lot of prayer and worship music and then when things quickly started getting more I tense around 2am I hopped in the shower. I labored in the shower for a while but could not stand the fact that I felt so much pressure. Baby boy was very low already prior to labor even starting. Around 3am I decided I couldn't take anymore and woke my husband up to have us head to the birth center. Thank God I listened to my instincts because when we arrived there it was 4am and I was already 8cm.
I labored a little more between the shower and the birth ball. Until I was too uncomfortable and exhausted to do anything but lay on my side. That was all I could tolerate. By 4:45am I felt the urge to push. That feeling was the strongest uncontrollable feeling I had ever felt. It was then that I started to feel overwhelmed again. My mom showed up just in time because I really needed more support. My husband was great but he was overwhelmed also. And it really helped having him on one side and my mother on the other side. Together they and the nurse and midwife helped me focus on my breathing and reassured me that I could do this, in fact I was already doing this. Pushing sucked I'm not going to lie. I pushed for almost and hour and a half. But that moment my little boy was born was magical. It was healing. It was overwhelming in a good way this time because as soon as he was laid on my chest the first thing I noticed was that he locked eyes with me. It was that moment that I was able to let go of all my anxiety and fear. It was the process of giving birth that taught me how strong I was.
Now my little boy will be 2 and a half soon. He continues to remind me everyday that I am strong but most importantly I am strong because God made me strong. Prenatal and postpartum anxiety is real. I know now that I am not the only one. But what I do know is that I am strong enough to overcome it.