How My Traumatic Birth Experience Changed Me
An unexpected change in her birth plan sent this woman on a different life path.
Words: Shana Williams
In the early morning hours of June 3, 2012, seven days shy of my due date, my water broke.
I decided to lay back down in bed.
I woke again at 8 a.m. and thought, Maybe it's time to head to the hospital. My son’s father and I walked out of our high-rise apartment on 141st Street in Harlem. But instead of getting a cab, I headed to the corner bodega. The Ethiopian couple who owned the store were quite familiar with my belly and me. The owner's wife would always give me a little extra of whatever I would order and would tell me to take care of the baby.
Three wheat pancakes and a side of turkey bacon later, we were on our way to the hospital. I felt very prepared and ready to meet him—I couldn’t believe I was about to become a mom!
We arrived at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan and headed to the maternity ward. I went into the room and was placed on a fetal monitor. We waited for an exam to see if he was ready to come today. After a check from the nurse, she simply said, "He's ready to come!"
I went into my delivery room and got comfortable. I knew that I needed to set the tone for my experience, so I made sure to watch comedies on TruTV so that I could keep laughing and get through my labor. I didn't realize I was still in the super early stages.
About a few hours later, the nurse came in and said that I would have to receive pitocin. I was beyond familiar with that terminology, so I wasn't happy to hear that at all. I didn’t want any medicine to interfere with my birth, but I was told I wasn't contracting on my own. They put in a catheter, without explaining why.
Soon after, my body went into shock. I was already reacting to the pitocin, which made the contractions far more intense—the catheter was just too much. I was shaking uncontrollably. I didn’t feel confident about the whole process anymore.
They wouldn’t let me move around the room, so I just sat there, going through intense labor. I could hear the woman next door to me screaming. I was so shaken up, I couldn’t seem to get myself together. I just wanted to give in. With the way things were going, it didn’t feel like it was my birth anymore.
Soon thereafter, my contractions became very intense. I went through the majority of my labor without an epidural. I was super adamant about having a non-medicated birth, but I asked for an epidural at the very last minute at 8 cm.
But once I received the epidural, I began to have an allergic reaction to the medicine and had to take Benadryl for relief. I took a rest and was woken by a doctor, who said it was time to push. I had Medicaid, so I had no idea who my doctor was. But 15 minutes later, at 10:51 p.m., my son was born.
I grabbed him and he immediately latched on my breast. Everything was magical. I couldn’t remember anything before him.
This entire experience was an awakening for me. There were so many people in that room that I don't even remember faces or names, which makes me sad. The medical industry is just sad in itself.
That's why I became a doula. For any woman who may have to go through what I've gone through, it would be amazing for her to at least know one solid person to support her in the room.
As soon as my son was born, I found my passion. I became a doula in 2017 and have enjoyed educating and serving women ever since.