Just a few short weeks ago Chantal gave birth to her second daughter, in the natural state that she had craved. This is the story of Elena’s birth and how Chantal educated and empowered herself so that she was in complete control of the labour and delivery. Chantal is the founder of Sexy Turnip Health & Nutrition, a Facebook page dedicated to healthy eating tips, health & nutritional science information, product reviews, and her own personal articles and recipes. She’s also been contributing to my own personal nutrition knowledge and sending recipes my way for this blog! Enjoy!
Elena’s Birth Story
I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the birth of my eldest daughter Emma. Of course it was one of the most beautiful moments in my life that I will never forget. The moment that I held my first child in my arms and on my bare chest, I forgot about how long and painful the labor was (over 24 hours), and fell in love instantly with her. But I was disappointed with the way the hospital staff treated me during labor and how I felt no support from my OB/GYN (or the many different doctors I ended up seeing through rotation) throughout my pregnancy. I told myself that when we were going to have a second child, I would use a midwife and aim for an all-natural birth – without the membrane stripping, the forcing of breaking my water, the epidural and constant monitoring of my cervical dilation that made me feel I was in a race against time for no apparent reason.
Once the home pregnancy test came up positive last November, my husband and I immediately agreed to contact a midwife and set up an appointment at the local birthing center. I thought we were on the right path with this new pregnancy and left it mostly at that. I didn’t try to change anything else and just took cheap prenatal vitamins I found at Target when I visited the States during that time.
I was disappointed with the way the hospital staff treated me during labor and how I felt no support from my OB/GYN throughout my pregnancy.
Although I was working out 3-4 times a week and in great shape before I got pregnant, I stopped working out completely in my first trimester due to extreme morning sickness and the Diclectin that was prescribed to me made me extremely sleepy so I had the choice between being very sick or very sleepy. I chose sleepy. For the most part I thought I ate healthy when I was able to eat, but at that time I wasn’t aware about GMOs and eating clean…and then the weight gain started. In just my first trimester alone I gained 11 lbs. For me, someone who was used to working out and always being told that I was “healthy” and “in shape”, it was a shocker.
Healthy Pregnancy: Cleaning Things Up!
By early January, I was 13 weeks along and was invited to join a HIIT 30 day challenge by a group of friends from my birthplace in California. Since my gym membership was no longer valid, I started doing the 15-20 minutes of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) exercises at home in the evenings after my 18 month old would be in bed asleep. At first I wasn’t able to finish the exercises, since my muscles hadn’t been used for over three months, but after a couple weeks, I realized my time was getting better and my endurance was improving. I was learning to do real push-ups and burpees at 4 months pregnant! I felt great.
At the same time, an old passion started to resurface: nutrition. I had initially been nutrition major in university but had to change schools and consequently, majors, due to personal reasons after a year to be closer to my family. But my new health goals had me doing nutritional research and I found out that all this time I thought I was eating healthy; I was in fact, not. I learned about all the chemicals and pesticides that was added into our foods, how MSG has many names and is hidden in so many products, how “organic” food companies are getting away with adding GMOs, about how little nutritional value white flour has, and decided to eat clean: eliminate all white flour and sugar products, eliminate soda, eating more fruits and vegetables at every meal, and cutting down on processed food in exchange for making my own meals and desserts at home.
It wasn’t easy to start, but after a week or so of cleaning out my pantry and refrigerator, I started to feel less bloating, having more energy, my skin cleared out, and I was gaining weight at a steady pace of ½ lb to a pound every week or so. In addition to eating a healthy and well balanced diet, I also threw away my cheap prenatal vitamins and started to add good quality vitamin and mineral supplements to my regimen. I really felt a difference both physically and mentally and felt ready for D- Day: Delivery Day.
I decided to eat clean: eliminate all white flour and sugar products, eliminate soda, eating more fruits and vegetables at every meal, and cutting down on processed food in exchange for making my own meals and desserts at home.
When I decided I wanted a natural birth, I did not really decide much else. I also did not have a birth plan as I did for my first – my laid-back attitude worried my family and friends since they thought I didn’t care. An old friend once told me, “Your body is your temple. Worship it.” In my heart, I knew I was doing just that – that taking good care of myself and my body was taking care of my baby. I had to have confidence in myself and in my body. So when the first major real contractions came on Sunday evening, I knew what was happening and I was ready.
D-Day: Delivery Day & Elena’s Arrival!
The first contractions were irregular and 15-20 minutes apart, but I knew that these were not just Braxton Hicks contractions, they were getting stronger and more intense with each passing. I listened to my body and told myself that I wasn’t going to make the same mistake as I did with my first delivery and call my midwife too early. I was still able to speak, eat and sleep – so I did just that. It was rather annoying that my contractions would wake me up every 20 minutes or so, but I knew I needed to get as much rest as possible for laid ahead and would accept and let each contraction overwhelm me as they came.
When I was a kid, I used to body board, and as you paddled deeper into the ocean, the waves would get bigger and more intense as they carried you towards the shore. To me, each contraction was like a wave I had to ride – you could feel them coming – and you let the water take you in. I would breathe in deep with each contraction and let out the air slowly. If I needed to groan, I groaned. By 4 am, the contractions were more intense and getting closer to every 5 minutes and the leaking amniotic fluid told me it was time to call the midwife and go to the birthing center.
To me, each contraction was like a wave I had to ride – you could feel them coming – and you let the water take you in.
At around 5 am, I was greeted by the midwife on duty who was going to be by my side until I was more ‘ ripened’, so my own midwife could rest in between births (she had just assisted another birth shortly before). I was happy to know that I was at 4 cm dilated and that my baby was at 0 engagement. After that, I was only measured one other time during the delivery – not every hour or so as in the hospital.
The first couple of hours at the birthing center I was transitioning into active labor and kept my energy levels up by sipping on a homemade electrolyte drink I prepared and nibbling on fruits and a homemade energy bar in between contractions. I had remembered how dehydrated I was with my first birth and how it made me so weak that I couldn’t continue and needed an epidural. I didn’t want to eat too much heavy foods that I would get sick during active labor, but I did want to have enough drive to continue on my own.
If I could describe myself during labor, it would be that I was in my own zone. I was in my own bubble that I had created, riding each contraction wave as they came, and blocked out all outside noises. I love how my midwife and her team respected my bubble and kept the room quiet and the environment calm the whole time. I even apparently told my husband to shut up at one point…I don’t remember that part for one reason or another!
If I could describe myself during labor, it would be that I was in my own zone.
At around 10 am Monday morning, my midwife checked my cervix and told me I was at 7 cm dilated. I was thrilled since this labor was developing way faster than it had with my eldest daughter, and I think that the news gave me a boost of energy to continue. Up until then, I felt that I was in control of the contractions and although I had to groan and make loud noises with each one, I was able to tolerate. Then, all of a sudden, the intensity of the contractions became overbearing and I quickly agreed when asked to get in the bathtub.
The warm bath water eased the pain only a little; I couldn’t budge from my position of lying on my side, hugging the side of the bathtub and squeezing the life from my midwife assistant’s hand as each contraction came and lasted over a minute each and came within seconds of each other. A minute can seem like an eternity. Then the sensation came all of a sudden – that sudden urge to push- a sensation that you cannot stop. My midwife asked me if I wanted to get out of the bath and move to the bed on all fours to ease the pain. At that point I was feeling exhausted, and for the first time in my 6 hour long labor, I couldn’t move and pleaded for a break. But my baby was coming out, whether I wanted her to or not.
The urge to push was followed by a loud pop! It was my amniotic sac that had remained intact throughout the labor, had suddenly burst. It was followed by strong burning feeling as my body opened up and as every contraction pushed my baby further out into the waters. Then, when I thought I couldn’t push any longer, my 8lb 10oz daughter Elena Violette was born at 11:17 am on Monday, July 22nd, the same day as my husband’s birthday. I remember whispering ‘Happy birthday’ to him as my midwife laid a bluish Elena on my chest. We were extremely lucky since we found out later Elena was almost two minutes under water with her very long umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.
The delivery of my placenta was not as easy as Elena’s delivery. Right away after delivering Elena, the cramps and contractions continued and after a couple of tugs from my midwife the placenta came out…along with the blood. I ended up hemorrhaging almost a liter of blood in total, yet to my midwife’s surprise, I was able to get up 15 minutes after the delivery to go to the bathroom myself. Even my blood count showed no anemia and my iron levels were stable. Perhaps it is from eating leafy greens almost every day during my pregnancy, or perhaps it is pure chance, since I typically had a tendency to be anemic throughout my life, but I avoided a trip to the hospital after that delivery.
I cannot stress how important nutrition and fitness is not only to have a healthy pregnancy, but to have a healthy delivery as well, and for keeping your energy levels up both during and after. I really do believe that if I didn’t watch my nutrition and exercise regularly during my pregnancy with Elena, I would not have had the same natural delivery story to tell you with no medication, no interventions and only pure sheer maternal willpower.