I have been granted lots of "firsts" in this career and like with anything they tend to grow and evolve. Sometimes even compete (in a fun, non-aggressive way) with one another in my memory. I have experienced missing a birth because a Mama wound up delivering in an ambulance on her way to the hospital. There was one birth where I had arrived and was instructed to leave the hospital twice because of a Mama's labor stalling more than once. I've also witnessed a first time Mama deliver her baby in three pushes with the utmost composure and control as though she were an experienced Mama. These examples sort of just scratch the surface, as I've learned with every new client (and repeat clients), that every birth is so completely different and usually outside of the box in one way shape or form for every Mama. I absolutely feel that I learn something new every time I leave a hospital room. I am not a doula or a medical professional, so I make sure not to share too many specifics of what I've seen/experienced with my clients. Knowing how it feels to be pregnant, worried, or just thirsty for every ounce of knowledge one can soak up for the sake of mental preparation, I would never wish to instill a false sense of hope or unintentional fear in someone in the midst of one of the most intense times of their lives.
I do try to lend an ear, or any bit of support I can, when it feels as though it's okay to offer it, whether by being a cheerleader, leg holder, or an ice/beverage gopher. Sometimes by sharing bits of the experiences I've witnessed, hearing that what they are feeling or experiencing is totally normal, and citing small instances that I have seen first hand have allowed me to pass on an even tiny amount of comfort to an expectant Mama. Even with the best of medical care and reassurance from their nurses and doctor, hearing that what is happening is normal and that it has happened to many before them, can be a source of comfort.
In the case of Nicole and Luis Castro, their story will be added to my library of birth stories as "First Time Mama or Not, Anything can Happen!".
Her due date came and went, and Nicole did everything she could to avoid her impending induction (reflexology, acupuncture to name just a few methods). During that time she was able to enjoy her Thanksgiving, purchase and decorate their Christmas tree, and fulfill the last bit of nesting any Mama-to-be could really ask for.
It was 6:50am when Nicole texted me saying her contractions were 5 minutes apart, however inconsistent, on the day she was scheduled for her induction. I was elated for her that she could skip the process that evening and slowly progress at home until it was time to make her way to Mountainside hospital in Montclair. As usual, I kept my father in the loop, giving him warning that I could potentially need his assistance with watching my daughter Violet for a bit before my husband made it home from his 9-5. I spoke to him at about 8:30am on my way to drop Violet off at school, knowing I would be coming home to stalk my cell phone and patiently wait with my bag of gear, ready to run for the door. At 10:10am, Nicole texted me saying her contractions were now 2 minutes apart. Apparently her body skipped the "3-4 minutes apart" portion of the dilation process and went from spaced out to on top of one another! They would be leaving for the hospital soon after, of course!
As with all of my clients, I asked that they contact me as soon as they were checked in and Nicole was physically checked for dilation. Having left and met clients at the door (or beat them to the hospital) in the past I have tried my best in many ways to attempt to control my excitement and paranoia of missing the action. Depending on my travel time, I usually leave my home once my clients have hit the 3cm mark. Sometimes the time it takes to get past 2cm can last hours and given the rate of most contractions that leaves little for me to document. So I do my best to give them space and avoid potential hours of waiting.
Oh, and about that paranoia...
I've spent years trying to find a happy medium for timing and usually that happy medium leads to success. Then there are instances like Daniela's arrival into the world.
I can say this is the first time I have ever actually missed a birth. Not one that occurred in an ambulance that I physically was not allowed to be present for, but one that occurred (just barely) in a hospital!
After driving from West New York to Montclair as quickly and safely as possible, Nicole and Luis arrived at Mountainside Hospital and began looking for a parking spot..a block away...in a packed parking garage. Once parked on the fourth floor, across the structure from where the elevators were located, Nicole somehow managed to climb down four flights of stairs with wobbly knees and walk almost two city blocks to the front door of the hospital. After waiting patiently for a staff member to wheel her upstairs in the elevator, Nicole and Luis were safe in their delivery room. Whereupon being checked at 11:20am , they found Nicole was already 10cm and her need to push was completely justified. It was at that point that Luis called me (like I had instructed him to do during our consultation) to tell me the news. I immediately left my house and drove twenty-two minutes from East Rutherford to Montclair. Upon arrival, I encountered the same PACKED parking garage, and got lucky enough to find someone leaving on the third level. I texted Luis at 11:46am as I was power walking (in a way only someone who is 5 months pregnant themselves can do) across the street to the hospital and informed him that I would be there ASAP, to which he replied "It's too late, baby is here". Baby Daniela was born at 11:43am!
I'm fairly certain I screamed some variety of colorful language while still trucking along as quickly as possible.
Once checked in and upstairs, I quickly grabbed my gear and started to shoot. I could not believe this little one, who waited as long as she did to begin the process of her arrival, made such a swift change with her insanely fast labor and delivery in less than 5 contractions! Nicole and Luis were relieved but in the best form of shock two parents could hope to find themselves in. There they were, holding their happy and perfectly healthy baby girl, who by the way, had perfect apgar scores (which almost never happens). After waiting over 9 long months for the day to arrive, their beautiful little one was finally here after a whirlwind of a morning.
The love and humor that makes up Nicole and Luis's relationship was apparent from the second I rushed through the door. Nicole was cool and calm, while Luis was in total disbelief. Throughout the duration of my time spent with them post delivery, it was so kind and very sweet to see how impressed and in awe Luis was with his wife. He was bursting with pride for her and how in his words "she wears the pants now." He believed that nothing he could ever do will ever add up to the power and strength Nicole displayed during her labor and delivery. Within two hours Nicole was up and walking around, preparing for their move to the mother/baby unit, another check in her unique and quite frankly, amazing birth story.
I have never had the pleasure to document (at least partially) a birth like this one. It will change how I prepare for births in the future, even after having felt as though I had found my niche. Over the last few years this career has taught me to be even FURTHER on my tippiest of toes and to never assume that just because someone is delivering for the first time that she "must" have at least a few hours to go. In addition to instilling a bit more paranoia into my routine, Daniela's arrival has also taught me that even with all the "right planning," anything can still happen even when it's outside both mine and my client's power. Things can go awry but still work out beautifully. I am happy that I could be there as soon as I could to capture those first moments and hours as they transitioned from a couple to a family of three. It was my absolute pleasure meeting and working with Nicole and Luis, and I am so proud to share these images with them to cherish as their family continues to grow.
Thank you for allowing me to play a tiny role in your amazing, unique birth. Your story will live with me for the rest of my days.
Congratulations and Happy Birthday Daniela!