The 100th Birth I Supported as a Doula

Declan's Birth Story

BY: Crystal Hazzard (mom)

Photos By: Laura Swift Photography

I, Shalene, am so honored to hold space and support couples during their rite of passage into motherhood. I have been honored to have now supported over a hundred couples during their birth. This story represents my hundredth birth as a Doula.

Crystal, gifted me with her story to share here. If you have given birth, it is important and valuable to write your story, for your own process (however you birthed), and to one day share with your child.  I have written both of mine and asked for my mother to write the story of my birth. I have them all in a special place to share with my girls.

Enjoy hearing of a woman's rite of passage into motherhood:

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            I have been meaning to write Declan’s birth story since he was just a few weeks old, and now he is about to turn 6 months this week. I can’t believe the time has gone so quickly, it feels like I was just getting my maternity photos taken and making sure his room was ready. I remember wondering when he would come and what his birth would be like. Would it be everything I had been hoping and planning for or would he surprise us and change every aspect of our birth plan?

             Pre-labor pains began two weeks before he was born. I would have very irregular mild contractions for a day, then they would go away for a day or two. There were so many times that I got excited that “this was it” only for them to stop an hour or so later. In my last prenatal appointment on November 9. I brought up that I had been having more regular contraction that week, but none closer than 15 min apart. They asked me to rate the pain level of the contractions and remember telling them they were a 5 or 6 on a scale of 10. Thinking back to that now, I laugh. I think a 2 would have been a more appropriate rating, but I was young and naive back then. The Midwife checked me, and while she felt his head really low in my pelvis, my cervix was still really high and she was unable to even reach it, which likely meant I was not dilated at all. So I went back home a little disappointed that he would not be coming on or before his due date of November 12 (my birthday). 

            I was awakened around 3:30 AM on Thursday the 10th with some contractions. Nothing really stronger than they had been before, but this was the first time I had been woken up by them. I got up and walked around some and drank some water to see if I could get them to go away so I could get some sleep. I had to go to work that day, and needed to get sleep. After being up for a bit with no change in my situation, I finally decided to wake Brian up because I was freezing and wanted him to build me a fire. I was finally able to get back to sleep around 5:30 AM, and slept for about two hours.

            When I woke up again and was still having contractions, I decided to call into work and let them know that while I didn’t think anything was actually happening today, I didn’t want to do the 45 min drive to work that day. I also told Brian that it felt a little different this morning, and that he should probably work from home, just in case. He thought I was overreacting, but stayed home anyway.

           Throughout the day the contractions varied from every five minutes to every 15 minutes, and wouldn't stay consistent. I texted my mom and my Doula, Shalene, to give them the heads up, but stressed that this was likely just false labor again since the contractions wouldn’t stay consistent. I spent most of day walking around the house aimlessly and bouncing on my exercise ball. A little after midday, Contractions started to become more regular coming every 5-8 mins and lasting 45-60 seconds. It was at this point that I texted my mom to tell her not to text me anymore and asked Brian to handle coordination with my mom and Shalene, so I could focus on being in "labor land". The thing that sticks out in my mind most when I think about my time laboring at home is Brian’s response to me when I asked him to do this. With a straight face he looked up at me from his computer and said “You really think you are in labor? I expected it to be more dramatic than this.” I sadly don’t remember my response, but I am sure it was some slightly snarky remark about him not really doing much.

           Around 5 o'clock I realized that I was going to the hospital at some point that night and they weren’t gonna let me eat, so in the middle of contractions coming every 5-7 min, we loaded into the car and made a trip to the grocery store for some chicken noodle soup. I continued to have contractions throughout the grocery store having to stop every few minutes until they passed. While checking out, the check-out lady asked when I was due, and I told her not due till Saturday, but that I was currently in labor. The look on her face was priceless.

         We finally text Shalene and told her she should probably come to the house around 8pm or so. Looking back, I think my body was waiting for her to be there, because once she got there and watched me for a few contractions, I started uncontrollably shaking and contractions started coming faster and harder. Once she saw this, she suggested we head to the hospital.

         The ride to the hospital was a hard one. We only live about 10 minutes from the hospital but it felt like it took forever and I had at least three contractions on the 10 minute drive. My biggest fear was that I would get to the hospital and I would only be 3-4 cm dilated since I seemed so far from labor just the day before. Thankfully when they checked me I was 7 cm dilated and 95% effaced. They also commented on how low he was in the birth canal.

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    Things seem to escalate pretty quickly from that point and it all feels like a blur. The two things that I do remember from that time involved my OBGYN. First, I remember looking over in the middle of intense contractions to see him sitting comfortably on the couch just watching me. At the time this made me quite angry, I thought he should be doing something at that time. I felt discouraged that I wasn’t close enough to delivery for him to be getting ready. The second was when he told me that I need to reach down and pull out my baby. It was such an amazing experience to be able to bring him up to my chest myself and I still get teary eyed every time I think about it.   

I am so happy that we made the decision to do birth photography with Laura Swift Photography, as it is the only way that I am able to remember any other parts of that time since it all happened so fast. I checked into the hospital around 9:30 or 10PM and Declan was born at 11:24PM.

            I didn’t get to hold him for very long after he was born because he was not oxygenating very well and was kind of a purpley- blue color. I don’t remember noticing it the day of, but looking back at the photos, he was definitely not the right color. Brian went with Declan (although he was not named at that point) over to the warming lights to work on him while I got stitched up. Shalene, Dr. Roberts, and I were laughing and having a great time, and didn’t even realize how serious things were over on the other side of the room. He was not breathing well on his own and was having to be on CPAP. After 10-15 minutes, they decided that needed to take him from our room to work on getting him to breathe better and do some x-rays. Brian went with him to the sick nursery. I am so glad I had Shalene there with me to be my support and company while Brian was away.

            Having a Doula for my birth was probably the single best decision we made when planning for Declan’s arrival. Because of her we were able to prepare for an unmedicated birth with pain coping techniques (although using ice in your hand as a stand in for labor pain is hilarious to me now) and with the amount of back pain I was having, I may have had more trouble getting through the end of labor without all the amazing counter pressure she was giving me. I think I was the first client to give birth practically on top of her and I appreciate all the support and encouragement she gave me. I still think “melt” whenever I am very tense and need to relax my body.

         Brian finally came back to the room about an hour later. It's kind of a weird feeling to have just gone through such an intense and quick moving labor then all of a sudden be sitting in the room just my husband, my Doula, and my birth photographer, without my new baby. It was quiet, weirdly calm, and we just waited to hear from the doctor. We finally got news that our boy was not going to be able to stay with us that night. They had found that the upper left lobe of his lung was collapsed and that he had a pneumothorax (small hole in his lung). Though they found these things, and nothing had really been done yet, he was already breathing better on his own and I would be able to try breastfeeding in a little bit. I was finally able to go to him and see him around 2:30 AM. Thankfully he recovered fully without needing any additional interventions and was even able to come home on schedule.

        We didn’t get the normal “family photos” right after his birth like you normally do when you have a birth photographer since we had a lot going on, but Laura Swift was kind enough to come back the next day to take them for us.

        We were so excited to take him home, and I cherish that first month that we were able to be at home together full time. The sleepless existence we lived was challenging at times, but with the help of family and friends, we made it through. The turning point that I think all parents can relate to, is when he started to smile. All of the sleep-depriving, diaper-messing, and nipple-chomping is easily forgiven with a flash of a heart-melting smile.

- Crystal

Shalene Massie

Rhythm of Birth provides Doula support, body work, and childbirth preparation classes to pregnant couples in Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Radford, Roanoke, Floyd, and surrounding areas of Virginia. Rhythm of Birth supports couples regardless of where (hospital, home, birth center) or how they plan to give birth.