There are times in life where we do everything by the book and our plans may not turn out in our favor. I experienced this while pregnant with Ava. As I take you on the journey of trusting God with your pregnancy and delivery, it is my prayer that other mamas will gain peace and confidence on their journey to deliver their baby.
The day before delivery
The day before Ava was born, I was able to accomplish a lot. I had taken some last minute maternity pictures at the park and worked on my Aunt’s resume which I had been meaning to do for the past couple of weeks. I prepped some food and did some other chores around the house. I listened to some spiritual affirmations, looked up verses to help me gain confidence and did some journaling. I spent some quiet time in my bible and told God my labor is in his hands. I had finally accomplished everything to do on my “things to do before Ava comes” list. Right when I finally felt mentally and spiritually ready, Ava knew it was time to enter into the world. Around 11 PM, I started to feel some contractions. They felt like menstrual cramps, but they were about 20 minutes a part. Midnight came and I still had the contractions. They were still spaced out, but I went to the bathroom and saw that my mucus plug had fallen out! (First stage of labor). I texted my doula and told her I would keep her posted if my contractions got closer together. Out of nowhere, I found myself going to the bathroom A LOT. I was having so many bowel movements. Turns out, this was another sign of labor (we never hear about this part of labor, lol)! The contractions got closer together and I told my doula that I was going to head to the hospital. I was overdue and from what I heard, women have their 2nd babies a little faster. Plus, I had been receiving chiropractic care throughout my pregnancy, which is known to help shorten labor.
I took a shower, washed my hair and woke my husband up to tell him it was that time. I made me a mason jar of labor ease tea that’s known to help alleviate pain during labor.
We arrived at the hospital around 3:30 AM. My doula was there and I went back to get checked to see how far along I was. A nurse had checked me and said I was 6 centimeters! I thought….WOW, i’m more than halfway there and I haven’t even screamed yet….okay Khadejah..you’re doing good. I changed into the hospital gown and the nurses took some blood from me and hooked me up to the monitor. At first, the nurses had me laying straight down on my back, but I requested to sit up. We are told to not lay down on our backs during pregnancy, so I believe it makes sense to avoid that while in labor. Each time I had a contraction, I made sure to focus and stay as relaxed as possible. If a nurse talked to me, I would not answer them until my contraction was over and they respected that. I also had a doula early on during my pregnancy when we lived in Massachusetts before moving to Georgia. She stressed the importance of focusing through your contractions, staying relaxed, and hydrated. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be touched to help with the contractions, but while I was having them, my body seemed to tense up more when someone touched me so I asked my doula not to be touched during contractions.
My doula dimmed the lights in the room, diffused some essential oils, and made sure I stayed hydrated. I continued to focus through the contractions and move my body into different positions that felt comfortable. I sat on the toilet, on the floor with pillows under my knees and resting on a birthing ball. I did not really practice any positions prior to labor. I just stayed in tuned with my body and did what felt right. The contractions were getting more intense, so I started listening to some spiritual affirmations that involved a woman reciting bible verses and affirmations on your body delivering a baby. The pain was getting more intense and I got tired of the affirmations pretty fast, lol. These affirmations are great to listen to a couple of weeks/days, before labor so you can have your mind prepared. I told my husband to play one of my favorite songs by Geoffrey Gorden called Glory to the lamb. I love that song and it felt like I had a mini worship session while playing it. About 30 minutes after, my midwife arrived and told me a mom had just delivered her baby in the blow up pool and that they would be setting it up for me shortly (I planned to have a water birth, but they like for you to get in around 5 centimeters and it takes about 1 hour to prepare). Before setting it up, my midwife checked me and I was at 9 centimeters! I was calm, but I couldn’t believe it! I’m thinking……..I need more of this tea!!
The only thing that was really uncomfortable that I couldn’t control were the monitors, they made my body tense up more and I didn’t like anything wrapped around my stomach, but they had to monitor the baby’s heartbeat. I asked to have intermittent monitoring (listen to the baby’s heartbeat every 10 minutes or so and you get to have the monitors taken off) and they agreed after they had a steady record of baby’s heart beat.
I kept focusing through the contractions and about 30 minutes later, I was at 10 centimeters, but I didn’t feel the urge to push yet. I asked my midwife what I could do to help the baby come out. She told me just to listen to my body. I got on the bed and held on to the rail at the top of the bed with my back facing the front. I started to push with each contraction and when I didn’t have a contraction, I would take a break. I was adamant about not pushing if I didn’t have the urge, because when I was pregnant with Lola, I started pushing at 8 centimeters (doctor’s request) and tore. I wanted to prevent tearing this time, so I took my time. I finally started to feel her coming! I kept pushing. My legs were so sore and hurting. Pushing didn’t really hurt to me, it just took a tremendous amount of energy, but I pushed through because I was at the end. My husband, midwife, mother in law, and doula were all encouraging me. I definitely needed that encouragement! lol.
You may be thinking,”when did your water break?” My water actually broke while pushing and then after about 5 minutes of pushing she came out! I pushed for about 15 minutes altogether.
My midwife said “grab your baby!” I was so exhausted…I think I told her to wait. I grabbed my precious Ava and the first thing I said was “omg, why does she have blonde hair?!” We were so shocked, but in love with her. Ava Salena Stegall was born on June 2nd at 6:56 AM! She weighed 8 pounds and 7 ounces! Lola, my first born only weighed 7 pounds and 2 ounces at birth. I pushed the placenta out after and made sure we didn’t cut the cord until 1 hour later. Normally, the cord gets cut right when the baby comes out, but we requested delayed cord clamping. Some of the benefits are that the baby will have a decreased risk of anemia, increased blood volume, and an increased level of stem cells. I had a wonderful birth team and the hospital staff was so supportive of my birth plan during labor and after delivery.
Meaning of Ava
Ava means life, Salena was my grandmother’s name and I always admired how she was so loving and nurtured such a loving family. I wish to do the same.
Trials during pregnancy
Although my labor was great, my pregnancy had its ups and downs. I originally chose to deliver at a birth center. After my first hospital experience with Lola and all of the unnecessary interventions to speed up labor, I wanted to go somewhere that would support a more holistic birth. Although I had an amazing hospital birth, you do have a higher chance of not having your desired birth plan if your midwife isn’t on call the day you deliver. You don’t have a lot of control over what may happen and some Obgyns are not as open minded about holistic births.
Birthing centers are a lot more supportive of holistic births. They embrace natural pain management tips while the mom is in labor and you are more free to walk around without monitors. Think of it as a home birth away from home. There is still a midwife there monitoring you, but it’s a lot more free and less people than what you would experience at the hospital. Plus, with black women dying from childbirth at alarming rates, I was really glad to be delivering at the birth center. If you have a birth center near you and desire a natural birth, I would recommend you to check it out if you usually have low-risk pregnancies. Not everyone can deliver at a birth center and there is a qualification process to deliver at one.If something goes wrong during labor, there is a close hospital they usually transport you to.
During week 37, I was hit with a curve ball. I was told that due to health reasons, I would no longer qualify to deliver at the birth center and I would have to deliver at the hospital I wasn’t too fond of. I was prepared to be transported if something happened during labor, but the chances were slim, since I had a low-risk pregnancy before.
We had been going to the birth center for prenatal check ups since around 30 weeks and planned to deliver there. I had low iron that wouldn’t come up, low blood platelets, a gap in my prenatal history (moving from MA to GA) and I was group b positive, which is a bacteria that is found inside the mom and is harmless to mom, but can be dangerous for baby. I didn’t experience this with Lola although I had an awful diet with her. “Why is this happening?” I thought. I did everything right this time! Exercising, eating so healthy, and it still doesn’t seem to be enough. With Lola, I ate so much meat and was on 3 iron pills a day and my iron still didn’t come up, so I was determined to get it to raise this time, but it was so challenging. My husband and I were upset at the news, because we were told so late in the process and the chances of switching care providers at 37 weeks were slim.
I was feeling like…although I tried to do everything right, I’m not getting the birth I desire. I did everything right, so nothing bad should happen to me right? During a bible study with my sister in love, she mentioned how even if we live a good life, we are not exempt from trials. You can be a great person and bad things can still happen to you. This hit me hard! In the bible, there are many people that lived great lives and went through tribulation. I had to change my mindset and try to stay positive.
Thankfully, my doula contacted me and knew a midwife that would take me at 37 weeks! I switched to her practice and absolutely loved her. She was so thorough during our first meeting and things started to feel a lot better. Looking back, i’m so glad I ended up with the new physician. Plus, the birth center was 45 minutes away and since we left around 3 AM, my husband would have been too tired to do that drive. God intervened for my sake because he knew the best plan for my family. This experience gave me so much more faith and confidence in God, not that I didn’t already have it, but it was stronger. It’s like after having Ava, all of my worries went away. This 10 month journey reiterated how God is in control of our lives and when things don’t turn out the way we pictured it to, he is just intervening to provide us with a better plan. My labor could not have been more perfect.
What I did to prepare for a medication free labor
Here’s a quick recap of what I believe helped me have a fast labor and ability to deliver an 8 pounds 7oz baby without any meds!
- Consuming a plant based vegan diet I truly believe this was the main reason my labor went so well. I ate lots of veggies, fruit, super grains, and legumes. I definitely had cheat meals at times, but for the most part, my diet was pretty clean, I would say 80% throughout my whole pregnancy. Like I said, I wasn’t perfect 🙂
- Exercising. I exercised during the beginning of my pregnancy, but I stopped more in the middle due to moving. I did start back towards the end, but I focused on walking, which is known to be one of the best ways to exercise for pregnant women. My legs were really sore during labor, so I would recommend doing some leg exercises to strengthen your legs for labor.
- Drinking Red Raspberry Leaf Tea. This tea is known to strengthen the uterine walls and decrease labor time in pregnant women and relieve premenstrual symptoms in women in general.
- Chiropractic adjustments I started to receive chiropractic adjustments around 25+ weeks. It is known to relieve back pain, pelvic pain (which is what I had), allows baby to get into a better position and so much more! It also helps to shorten labor. I highly recommend it.
- Eating Dates closer to my due date Eating dates helps to ripen your cervix and studies show that women who eat dates have a shorter labor. I will link the study at the end of this post.
I want to take the time to thank everyone that helped us during this process. Thank you to my husband’s parents that let us move with them during this transition, my family’s support with getting a doula and everything else to prepare for the baby. I want to thank my 2 amazing Doulas (Marisol & Bertha)for all of their help and my birth team. Thank you to the pregnancy resource center in MA. If you prayed, bought off our registry, or sent me encouraging words, I truly appreciate it!
What is a doula? A doula, also known as a birth companion, birth coach or post-birth supporter, is a non-medical companion who supports a birthing woman by providing continuous care before, during, or after childbirth in the form of information, physical support, and emotional support. Pregnant women that hire doulas are less likely to get an epidural. Doulas also support women who prefer an epidural as well.
Study on pregnant women that ate dates: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21280989
Where I ordered the tea I consumed during labor + where you can buy the red Raspberrey lead tea. It’s called golden goddess. https://www.thegoddescollection.com/product-page/labor-ease
Benefits of chiropractic care for pregnant women: https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/chiropractor-while-pregnant
Benefits of delayed cord clamping: https://mommypotamus.com/benefits-of-delayed-cord-clamping/
Prenatal vitamin used during pregnancy: Megafood Baby and Me 2
Beautiful blanket from 5kibo: (This blanket is SO comfy and big enough for Lola and Ava to cuddle once Ava gets older. Every blanket has a meaning and this one is called the love blanket. Something we’d wish upon our little ones. Their blankets are made from organic breathable cotton providing the softest experience for babies and toddlers alike. This is seriously my new favorite blanket and I will probably order another for myself!