Sabrina: "Sabrina fair, listen where thou art sitting under the glassy, cool, translucent wave, in twisted braids of lilies knitting the loose train of thy amber-dropping hair."
Linus: [pause] So, your little poem - what does it mean?
Sabrina: It's the story of a water sprite who saved a virgin from a fate worse than death.
Linus: And Sabrina's the virgin.
Sabrina: [quietly] Sabrina's the savior.
Birthdays have always been special experiences for me, but it wasn't until I became a mother that birthdays became something a little bit more than just a day. Becoming a doula has a lot to do with our first born, Sebastian's, birth day. His birth was traumatic for me, a first time mother, who had no real evidence-based knowledge on hospital birth. After a risk-free and wonderful pregnancy with Sebastian, we were told at our last appointment that there was low amniotic fluid, and I would be induced at 39 weeks. Fast forward to 53 hours later, multiple ripening drugs, full pitocin, and no dilation, I was brought back for a cesarean that changed my entire life. I was ashamed and embarrassed. I kept thinking something was wrong with my body. Why couldn't it just cooperate? The natural birth I had desired for so long ended up a complete turn around of events. I was left with loads of PTSD and PPD. These events unfolded into my journey of evidence- based research as a doula to help birthers empower themselves with a voice. I didn't have a voice back then. And what I learned was that nothing was wrong with my body- it just wasn't ready for birth, and the low fluid wasn't a marker for emergency action because the number wasn't considered low to evidence-based research. I could have said, "no, let's try something else" or "may I get a second opinion on that fluid reading" or "is this an emergency?"
Being pregnant with Sabrina was a wonderful journey. Another risk-free pregnancy, and here I was, now fully equipped with the evidence-based mindset I had lacked before. I found wonderful midwifery care and a doula who fully supported my desire to TOLAC for a VBAC. I was a great candidate for a natural birth, and that was our vision from the start.
At 12:30 AM on May 13, 2021, I awoke with a start to what seemed like the voice of my ancestors telling me to get up! As I got out of bed, keeping quiet for our sleeping son in the next room, I noticed my water broke. I was so excited- this was it! Being GBS positive, it was necessary to get to the hospital for antibiotics before labor, so after our sleepy son was dropped off at Nonna's and I called my doula, we were on our way to have a baby! Contractions were picking up, and my birth team (both doula and husband) were rockstar support systems. Through positions, walking, breathing, and music, my contractions became regular. We were all convinced that we would have our daughter in arms that day. Little did we know that God made other plans for us. I was effaced, but my midwife informed us I hadn't dilated. We were shocked. So, we pressed on. At around 4 PM that evening, I was checked again. No dilation. Immediately, previous fears resurrected. What was going on with my body? Why wasn't it cooperating? I cried. With helpful conversation from my birth support team, we decided to give a small amount of pitocin a chance to progress or speed up dilation and increase as necessary. Contractions really picked up, becoming regular, strong, and long. We were smiling and hopeful. After another check before midnight, I had only dilated not even a centimeter. These contractions were taking a toll on my physical body, and the external, wireless monitors kept me from my calm headspace that I needed to create for dilation. So, an epidural was on the table. I slowly saw this taking the form of my last birth, but we pressed on. We maxed pitocin to 16, and after a check around 3AM, I was only dilated 1 centimeter. I was devastated. My midwife and I assessed options- I was clearly progressing but very slowly. Because my water broke, we were approaching time restraints, but no critical infections or emergencies were evident. I could then keep laboring, or I could move forward to cesarean. After prayer and guidance from my birth team, I knew I didn't want another traumatic experience. I didn't want to be so incredibly tired from lack of sleep and laboring to only end up in a c-section anyway. My body just wasn't moving along as I wanted.
So, I made a difficult choice- I opted for cesarean. I cried. In fact, everyone did, including my midwife, because she knew how much a VBAC meant to me.
I was able to meet my surgeon- a robust New Yorker accent paraded into the room, but I immediately felt at home and comfortable with him. His attitude and demeanor reminded me of my father's side of the family, so I was at ease. (It wasn't until later that we found out he attended the same school my father did in New Jersey. Fate was on our side).
We prayed. We prepared. We prayed again. As I was on the operating table with husband at my head and my doula praying behind the door, we heard a baby cry and gasps following. Clearly, Sabrina had just been belly-birthed, but the gasps were from her situation: the umbilical cord was SO long that Sabrina developed a nuchal cord- it was wrapped tightly twice around her neck, her arm, her waist, her leg, and her ankle. The team informed us of what we already knew- if I had progressed further without cesarean, an emergency birth would have resulted, physical limbs may have been affected, or worst case- stillbirth from the tightening around her neck. Her monitors never showed evidence of distress, but I never dilated enough to encounter that emergency, and that emergency was prevented because she couldn't press down to dilate my cervix due to her condition. The emergency was also prevented because of informed choices, decisions, and prayer.
And now, we are home and healing with our beautiful baby girl and her big brother. So, was this traumatic? No. I am a belly-birther mother of two, who can now look back and see the life lesson here- let go of CONTROL because the universe has a way of protecting you when you stop forcing your
hand. Nonna would say: let go, and let God.
Sabrina... the savior.