This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, challenging, amazing things. This is the story of Aya and her unexpected home birth.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I am an almost-thirty year old mom of three living in Toronto. I work in administration at an NGO I am passionate about. I love cooking for my family, stalking ASOS for new arrivals, refreshing my Feedly reader, and watching movies with the subtitles turned on. I speak three languages and there is a 90% chance I am taller than you. I blog, too!
What was your pregnancy like?
It was my first pregnancy. It was a very stressful time as I had just gotten married, moved to a new home, and gotten a new job at the same time as getting pregnant. Medically, it was uneventful except for crushing, debilitating, “morning sickness.” I suffered from nausea and vomiting all day long from the beginning of the pregnancy up to and including the birth. I recall vomiting in wastebaskets at work and in my lunch bag on the bus.
How did you imagine the birth going?
I tried to avoid imagining it! I was so preoccupied with other things going on in my life at that time that I did not even have a hospital bag packed when I went into labor. I wanted to deliver in my hospital, but I did not want an epidural. Besides for my concerns about their side effects, I am utterly terrified of needles. Having to stick a needle in my back is much scarier to me than giving birth.
Tell us about the night before you gave birth.
I was 37 weeks along in my pregnancy and I had just stopped working the day before. That night we celebrated our first wedding anniversary. My husband and I went out to eat at a Middle Eastern eatery and ate a delicious meal of greasy shawarma and fries. Afterward, we invited our family over to our home for drinks and a triple chocolate cake. We had a great time together and I went to sleep feeling wonderful.
When you woke up feeling sick, what did you think was happening?
I woke up at around 6 am with a churning, crushing pain in my stomach. I woke my husband up and told him that I must have gotten food poisoning from the sketchy restaurant the night before. He said that he didn’t feel anything amiss and it would probably pass if I got some rest. I tried to go back to sleep, but the pain just kept getting worse.
At what point did you call for help? When did you realize you were actually in labor?
I called my mom around 10 am and asked her to come over. At that point, I was stuck on the toilet, vomiting nonstop. I was afraid to leave the bathroom because kept feeling like I needed to poop. Sitting on the toilet felt more comfortable than any other position. After a couple of hours of this, my mom tried to convince me to call an ambulance but I wouldn’t hear of it. I think my exact words were, “I refuse to get up from this toilet ever again.” I refused to accept that I was in labor. It was three weeks too early, my water hadn’t broken, and the pain did not feel like contractions.
Was it scary giving birth without any medical help?
I am extremely fortunate that my mom is an MD though not an obstetrician. Eventually, she dragged me off the toilet and ordered me to lie down on my bed. It was just in time as she saw the baby’s head crowning. She called 911 on my cell phone. Believe it or not, they told her to push the baby back into the birth canal and wait for the paramedics! She ignored them and told me to push. A few minutes later my daughter was born and my mother caught her.
It actually didn’t feel any more frightening than giving birth with medical help, which I did two more times in the hospital. What this experience taught me is that on a fundamental level, a woman’s body knows how to give birth without outside intervention. I felt safe at home with my mother by my side, and I had no preconceived fears or notions about what should happen or what I must do. In this respect, it was possibly even less scary than my subsequent births.
What happened after help arrived?
Right after my daughter was born, an army of emergency personnel showed up. The firefighters were the first to arrive and they were very happy and excited for me. They cut the cord and wrapped up me and the baby in warming blankets. The paramedics and police officers arrived next. The paramedics checked me, put the baby on me to breastfeed, and stabilized us both in preparation for transport to hospital. A male paramedic scolded me in the ambulance for not getting to the hospital quicker. The nurses and doctors in the hospital seemed quite surprised that I had managed to have a healthy baby all on my own! I feel so blessed that this story had such a happy ending.
I’m sure this is a story your child will be telling for the rest of their life! What does she think about it?
She is still young enough that she doesn’t really comprehend the details yet. We live in a different home now and she likes to point out the apartment building where she was born when we drive by. She knows that most babies are born in the hospital and she feels being born at home is special. I imagine the story will be more interesting to her when she gets older. I hope it inspires her to consider an unmedicated, natural childbirth when she has children.
Thanks so much for sharing, Aya! Do you guys have any questions for her? Do any of you have non-traditional birth stories? My partner delivered his youngest son in a bathtub because they couldn’t get to the hospital in time!