Sharen Medrano's Narrative Portrait
The birth of my second child in 2011 was one of the most magical days of my life - I took control by trusting the wisdom of my body and gave birth at home.
In 2006, I didn’t know much about home births and midwives and doulas. My pregnancy with my son was relatively healthy, despite not knowing much about taking high quality supplements. We delivered at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in Washington Heights, NYC, which is connected to the clinic where I went for my well-care visits as a child.
At the first signs of labor we made our way to the hospital. In hindsight, I may have been a bit premature, but I was excited to meet my first born. I always imagined a calm delivery and an inviting atmosphere where I would be supported through the birth process.
Unfortunately, that was not my experience. The attitude of the hospital staff upon arrival was “Mam, you need to have this baby fast and NOW!’ I felt like I was an emergency case and my pregnancy was a fast-moving disease. The initial exams were so stressful that at one point my son’s heart rate dropped and I was told to get on all fours on the exam table with an oxygen mask strapped to my head. Despite getting an epidural during the delivery, the pain was so intense - like nothing I had ever experienced. Immediately after delivery, I held him for a moment and then he was whisked off for cleaning and tests – it was so detached and clinical. How could his first moments of being in the world not be in close embrace with me?
I vowed to learn another way should I ever be blessed with another child. I discovered Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and I knew my intuition was right on! Giving birth was not a medical emergency - millions of women before me have done so naturally. It was all about trusting my body to do what it was made for – to birth new life.
When I became pregnant, with my daughter in 2010, my husband and I decided on a home birth - we hired a midwife and a doula and kept it very simple. I didn’t want to fill my mind with too much data and relied instead on the understanding and wisdom of nature I had gained from my reading of Ina May Gaskin.
It was early morning when the first contractions woke me. I walked around the apartment to distract from the discomfort. I had a sense that this delivery was going to happen fast. I started to rock from side to side to help ease the discomfort. As the waves of contractions intensified I became a rocking machine. I knew at this point I needed to wake my husband and call in the team. There was no time to inflate the pool - I told my husband to fill the bathtub. The warm water was soothing and helped me relax. The doula arrived. Our midwife was stuck in traffic. While on the phone with the midwife, my husband saw blood in the water. She instructed him to get me out of the water and have me lie on my side on the bed. There was no time to cover the bed with my new blanket, but only lay the plastic curtains we planned to use to protect our mattress. Yes, it was a crunchy birth but I didn’t care. In a flash, I remembered some of the stories in Ina’s book of how moving my vocal cords with a range of sounds would sooth the pain. What a liberating experience, it helped me surrender and when I did I was filled courage.
Excitement ensued in the apartment as my sounds intensified. I realized the time had come by the looks on the faces of my husband and the doula who noticed the head of my daughter cresting. And with what I recall being mild pushes, my daughter was born. The pain was minimal.
We laid on the bed together, skin on skin, for what seemed like hours with umbilical cord and all until the midwife arrived. I felt our attachment solidify during that time, a bonding experience that tugs at my heart with overwhelming joy every time I retell this story.
Learning to trust my body during my daughter’s birth inspired me to study in the field of health and birthing by becoming a board-certified lactation consultant. This in turn led me to collaborate on With Child to create a community for women to offer support and guidance to one another and where we could share our wisdom and experience.
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