Cynthia’s Birth

Cynthia, Larissa, and Norman

I met Cynthia in September and was thrilled when we agreed that we’d like to work together.

She was due mid-December with her second baby and planned to give birth at a local birth center. For a doula who has spent much of this pandemic year supporting clients over Zoom, I was thrilled at the thought of joining my clients at the birth center where the policies still allowed for doulas to support in person.

Prenatals

Over the course of the fall, it was a pleasure and an honor to get to know Cynthia, her partner Norman, and Cynthia’s daughter Larissa, age 11. Larissa was eagerly anticipating her baby brother’s birth, and learning as much as she could to support her mama. 

We had two of our prenatal appointments over Zoom, and met in a park on a crisp fall day for our final prenatal session, where we sat at a picnic table, masked and distanced, and talked about coping and comfort measures in labor. I brought kneeling pads and rebozos, and Cynthia brought extra pillows. We practiced labor and pushing positions to the sound of children playing in the nearby playground. I sent the family home with printed pages from Penny Simkin’s wonderful Labor Positions Coloring Book. I’d suspected that Larissa might enjoy spending some time coloring the beautiful illustrations, but Norman said that he might just snag some and color them first!

Starting around 37 weeks, Cynthia and I stayed in touch by phone at least weekly, chatting about her recent midwife appointments, her sleep, the contractions that started coming sporadically for the rest of her pregnancy, and strategies for staying comfortable in the the final weeks. 

Labor?

At 39 weeks and 3 days, Cynthia had contractions consistently through the day, and gave me a call in the early evening with a heads up. I packed and triple checked my bags, laid out clean clothes and fresh PPE and went to sleep early with my phone by my head. When I woke the next morning I was surprised at having had a full night’s sleep. Cynthia said her contractions had slowed down overnight and she’d managed to sleep most of the night as well. 

As many folks who’ve been pregnant will attest, the final days of pregnancy can feel like months, and for Cynthia this was no exception. Thinking she’d been close to the big day, she slowed down and focused on resting up, foregoing her long daily walks. After a few more days with no increased action, Cynthia was getting stir crazy and told me she was going to get back to walking, for the sake of her body and her mind. 

We had a long chat on her “due date” (40 weeks), going over ideas for how to stay comfy, balance rest and movement, as well as at-home methods for encouraging labor. She was worried about going post-date and ending up having to switch to a hospital birth, and I reassured her that there was plenty of time (barring any changes to her health or baby’s) for her to go into labor spontaneously and still have a safe birth at the birth center.

Uh-oh

Overnight, to my dismay, I started developing some mild symptoms of The Virus. The next morning I scoured the internet for rapid tests in my area, and found nothing available for several days. With a heavy heart, I alerted my two backup doulas and got in touch with Cynthia and Norman to let them know that I wouldn’t be able to support them in person until I have a negative COVID test result in hand. We talked through our options, including preparing for virtual support (phone/iPad chargers, a stand or tripod, tested out our Zoom link, reminded them of the WiFi access at the birth center) and the possibility of having one of my backups come support them in person. And I made a secret wish that baby would stay cozily nestled inside his mama for a couple more days so I could get a clean bill of health and be with them at their birth. 

Wish not granted… Two hours later, I heard from Norman that Cynthia’s water had broken. We hopped on the phone and made a game plan for the night. We agreed that I would be their virtual doula as needed through the night, and we’d re-assess in the morning depending how labor was going about whether to ask one of my backups to join them for some hands-on support. 

Go Time

Cynthia’s contractions picked up and intensified over the next several hours, and at around 3:30am they headed in to the birth center. The midwife checked her cervix on arrival and found her to be 3 cm dilated. Once they got settled in we hopped on Zoom so I could check in and offer some suggestions for positions that might make Cynthia more comfortable, as well as moral support all around.

I reminded Norman of some of the comfort measures we’d practiced in the park (hello counter pressure and hip squeeze!), and chatted with Larissa about how she was feeling watching her mom in labor. I asked her to be responsible for giving her mom sips of water and lots of encouragement. She was a stellar doula-in-training, as well as a great IT manager (she kept the phone propped up in just the right places so I could be out of the way but see what was going on). 

We Zoomed a couple more times over the next few hours, and each call I could see how Cynthia was more and more deeply into “labor land” – moaning through her surges, resting in between, and perfectly in tune with her body’s rhythm. Larissa and Norman stayed by her side and encouraged and supported her constantly. 

At 8:30 I got a text from Larissa saying “I think my mom’s pushing now”. I rejoined them on Zoom and was honored to be “in the room”, supporting from afar, while Cynthia stood, holding on to the birth ladder and like a warrior, pushed out her baby boy Matias at 9:00AM. 

Matias on his birthday
Matias on his birthday, December 20th, 2020

P.S. I got my negative COVID test 4 days later.