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Giving Birth as a 21-year-old First-Time Mom in a Foreign Country (My First Birth Story)

When I was 21, I gave birth for the first time. I knew how I wanted to experience birth and how I had grown up learning about birth. My mother always told me about birth as a natural experience, one not to fear but rather a life experience that was valuable and powerful. Then when I was 15 I was present when my sister gave birth. That cemented my own feelings about birth. It's not that I wasn't afraid of the pain, I was. But I looked forward to being part of the circle of life and experiencing something that I felt was a massive part of the feminine experience.

So my husband and I tried for a baby and I got pregnant right away. I was 21, finishing university and we were just a few months away from celebrating our first wedding anniversary. I knew what kind of birth I hoped for before I ever got pregnant, but once I got pregnant I realized the system here was very different than what I expected based on experiences in the US. I read many books to prepare myself mentally for giving birth and did a lot of research until I found Dra. Suarez and the Natural Birthing Unit at Nuevo Belen in 2011. It had only been established a few years earlier in 2008 and though it required an additional cost, I knew investing in a respectful birth environment and team was a wonderful use of money.

Here is my story as written by 21-year-old me shortly after giving birth:

"On Sunday, October 30th (39 weeks 5 days pregnant) I woke up around 9 am with wet underwear. My first thought was that my water might have broken so I went to the bathroom, put on fresh underwear, and went back to bed. I told my husband as I crawled into bed that I thought my water had broken and about one minute later I was positive because as I lay down fluid gushed into my fresh underwear.

Now that I was sure my water broke I woke my mom and then called the on-call midwife. Since I tested positive for Group-B strep she told me to come on in to the hospital so they could do some monitoring and go ahead and start my antibiotics. We agreed to meet in an hour. During this time I took a shower, packed a few more things in my hospital/birthing bag, and felt the first contractions.

We arrived at the hospital at 10 am and I got hooked up to monitoring which told us that the baby was fine and confirmed that I was having contractions every ten minutes. At 11 am my midwife administered my first dose of antibiotics for the strep and checked my progress. I was 2cm dilated and 80% effaced. At this point, she told me I could return home to labor if I wished and we agreed to meet again at 6 pm for another dose of antibiotics if my contractions didn't get closer together and more intense, but she was sure we would see each other before then because my labor seemed to be well underway.

On our way home we stopped at a pharmacy to pick up some homeopathic medicines for the birth that we hadn't had time to get yet and we ended up running into a sheep parade thing that happens in Madrid once a year (that we didn't know was happening that day). It stressed me out because my contractions were already getting more intense and closer together and I felt trapped in the car. It took us about half an hour to find an alternate route around this parade and by the time we were finally arriving home I had a contraction that brought tears to my eyes. It was 1 pm at this point.

Once I got home I was starving and walked down with my H to get a sandwich at a nearby

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shop, counting contractions along the way. My contractions were already about 5 minutes apart lasting one minute each and getting more intense. I called my midwife about 20 minutes after getting back home (that stupid parade took up a lot of time!) and by 1:50 pm we were back at the hospital checking into my natural birth room.

Then we hit another small snag. That morning the protocol for the natural birthing room in this hospital had changed. Usually, the midwives check the women in labor and allow them to stay or not, but it had just been passed that any woman checking into the hospital would have to pass through L&D to be checked by an OB/GYN. So I had to head back downstairs and get checked by the OB/GYN (not mine, just the one in L&D). I was found to be at 3cm, but the doctor agreed I should stay.

I went back up to the special room (there are two of these natural birthing rooms in the hospital I delivered at), put on some music, and took my first dose of the homeopathic medicine to help with contractions (Arnica Montana and Camomillia Vulgaris). It was 3:30 pm at this point. I got a second round of antibiotics for strep now too. I was dancing between contractions (I had put on upbeat music) and bouncing on my yoga ball during them. I could not move or talk during contractions by then.

For the next couple of hours, I was alternating between being in the small bathtub, getting compression massages from my husband, and staying in the slow dancing position with h during contractions. It was starting to get pretty intense and I was not coping as well as I wanted to, but my midwife (who stayed by my side the whole time) helped me to focus my breathing through contractions and I found that eye contact, as opposed to closing my eyes, helped a lot.

At 6 pm I had another internal and was 4/5 cm though my midwife had thought I'd be further due to the intensity and frequency of my contractions. They had started coming every 3 minutes or so. I took my second dose of homeopathic meds, using half a liter of water instead of a liter this time. At 6:30 pm I got another round of antibiotics.

Around 7:20 pm my OB/GYN arrived and let me tell you she is the most incredible OB/GYN I have ever heard of. From the time she arrived, she stayed in the room with me the entire time except for a few minutes when she ordered me food from the kitchen and went to the bathroom. I was so worried about not getting the birth experience I wanted here in Spain and now I wonder if I'd ever find a group as hands-on and incredible as the one I ended up with.

Anyway, when my OB/GYN arrived I was starting to fade. I was in the bath when she got there and she immediately went to massaging pressure points in my feet, helping me breathe through contractions, and encouraging me to eat a little to keep up energy. I had been in labor for about 8 hours and when she checked me at 7:50 pm I was still at 5cm. Baby's head was sideways against my cervix and it needed to turn into the right position. I was making no progress and the contractions were closer together and more intense all the time.

At this point, my OB/GYN spoke to me about taking a drug that would help me relax between contractions and might help slightly with the pain. I agreed to it because I was exhausted and getting discouraged. I remember hearing her say to my husband that I was in my labor crisis. She said they often happen in long, intense labors where progress stalls, and at this point, you can either help the mother through this labor crisis so she is energized to continue or you don't support her the way she needs and she ends up not having enough energy and begging for an epidural.

I have to say, she really knows what she's talking about. I got the medicine through the IV I already had due to the antibiotics for strep that I needed. I wish I remembered the name of the medicine, but I don't and I'm not sure what the US equivalent is anyway. All I know is, it sure as hell wasn't pain medication! I laid down on my side and the medicine helped me relax between contractions, almost to the point where I was able to sleep for those couple minutes of downtime. Shortly after getting the medicine through my contractions got so intense I was sure I couldn't do it for much longer. I told my husband and my mom that if I hadn't progressed at the next check that I might want an epidural because I didn't think I had the energy to go on. I remember reading from another natural mama on here that once you start feeling like this (like you really can't do it anymore) you are probably in transition and it's almost over. For me, this was true: I was 8cm at my next check!!! but unfortunately for me, it was far from over.

After being told I was 8cm and finishing up the meds that helped me rest I was feeling re-energized and ready to get this show on the road. I was almost there! Just had to make it to 10cm and push her out! I got out of my side-lying position and went back to laboring using the ball, slow-dancing with my husband, and sometimes sitting on the toilet. I felt like I constantly had to pee. Pretty soon I was feeling overwhelming urges to push. My midwives (there were two at this point and the one who had been with me originally had left) told me it was okay to push a little during the contraction if it helped with the pain. I did, but it wasn't something I could control.

During this time I labored a lot on the yoga ball and my OB/GYN held a hot pad on my back as she massaged it. I held onto my husband's arms in front of me to steady me and get through the contractions. I was starting to make guttural noises as the pushing feelings swept through me.

Finally, around 10:30 pm my incredible OB/GYN offered to perform another internal check. But this one she did focusing on my comfort. After a contraction I had standing, she sprawled out on the floor underneath me and did the internal. I had finally reached my goal. I was 10 cm! It was time to start pushing in earnest. I was tired from laboring standing up and on the ball so we decided I'd try side-lying pushing since my legs were so exhausted already.

I pushed in bed for about half an hour, then around 11 pm my OB/GYN said we had to enlist the help of gravity because baby's head was still in a poor position and my pushes were not helping her travel down the birth canal well enough. Later my husband told me my OB/GYN said at this point that if she would have given me an episiotomy our baby would've been born within minutes, but she wanted to help me avoid one and it was safe to do so. I am grateful to her on so many levels.

I stood and pushed in a squatting position for a while. I pushed squatting holding onto the wall, I pushed supporting myself on H (basically sitting on him) who was sitting on the yoga ball, I pushed all on my own with the doctor on the floor again trying to coax my daughter's head further down. They could see her head for a very long time and for so long they kept thinking this next push is it, it's so close. But she wouldn't budge. The whole time my OB/GYN was massaging my perineum, stretching my skin to prepare for baby to pass through.

Finally, I had to go back to a side-lying position in the bed because I literally couldn't support myself on my legs anymore. I was pushing with all my might and my OB/GYN kept telling my husband to make sure I was pushing during the most intense part of the contraction or not at all so I wouldn't tire myself out.

After what seemed like hours, I felt the ring of fire and knew she was coming soon. It still took another 10 or more minutes of pushing for her to come out without sliding back in and as she slid out my OB/GYN told me to reach down and pull my baby out and up onto my chest. I told her I couldn't, I was too tired, I just couldn't. But she encouraged me again and after a moment I reached down, grabbed my baby under her arms, and pulled her out. I am so glad my OB/GYN encouraged me because that is a moment I will never ever forget. At 12:12 am the morning of October 31 my baby girl came into this world and I pulled her out myself! It still amazes me.

Everything possible they did with my daughter on my chest. I passed the placenta without problem, though it did take about 20 minutes to get it out, and my OB/GYN was so relieved because she said with my fairness and being a redhead I was more likely to bleed more than normal. I breastfed my baby girl as soon as possible. My husband cut the cord after it stopped pulsing and then he held her for a few minutes.

Everything was great and when the OB/GYN went to check if I needed any stitches (she was sure I'd need some internal ones) she found that I didn't have any tears or need any stitches. I can't believe how lucky I got!

The only thing that didn't go according to plan is that I was unable to pee on my own. My doctor said I had to evacuate my bladder before I could go to my recovery room and she let me try for about twenty minutes to go on my own. I tried peeing on the toilet, getting in a hot shower to see if it'd stimulate it, but nothing worked. In the end, she had to use a catheter to empty it and I had a ton of urine! It just kept coming. Anyway, that was something I didn't expect, not to be able to pee after the birth.

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All in all, the birth felt long, very hard, and totally worth every minute. She was healthy, I have had a great recovery so far and I am so proud that I stuck with it and achieved my goal of having an epidural-free delivery."


If you'd like to share your birth story in Madrid (hospital or home birth!), please do so here.


Giving birth in Madrid or a new mom in Madrid? Looking for support on the wild ride called parenthood?

Look no further - book a free discovery call with me (Madison - doula in Madrid) today and let's chat about how together we can work to make your experience a positive one! And be sure to check out the Madoula homepage. If you're looking for doula support during your pregnancy, birth, or postpartum please be sure to contact me for a free consultation!

Giving birth is one of the most vulnerable moments in a person's life. There are many factors to consider at all times. The support of a doula from home to hospital adds an additional layer of support for both the birthing person and partner. Continuous care and individualized support both increase the likelihood of satisfaction with one's birth experience, regardless of the birth outcome (C-section, instrumental birth, etc).

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