My son was born on his due date, which I know is rare. I had moments in the days leading up to his birth where I'd have an intense cramp and think, "Oh this could be it!" and then 30 minutes later, they would be completely gone. When would this little guy make an appearance? I had no idea, and it was hard to let go and give in to knowing he'd come when he was ready. I was anxious to get him out and meet him.
On the morning of my due date, the baby felt quite low, and I was moving much slower. I went in for acupuncture and felt a contraction during the session. Maybe things were happening!? I left feeling very relaxed and in a place where I knew I needed to be. I walked around for a bit and met my parents for an outdoor poolside lunch. It was all random, spontaneous and super relaxing -- the perfect mix.
Before heading back to my Greenpoint apartment, my mom and I stopped to get our nails done -- another calming, relaxing activity. Once we got back to the house, I found myself distracted by cramping, but I figured it could just be early labor cramps, like the ones I had earlier.
Then it became clear to me that I was in labor, although I still wasn't saying it out loud to anyone. Once I told my husband Shawn, we sent our 3.5 year old with Nana and Papa for a sleepover at their hotel so we could focus on the labor. I settled in. Since I was determined to have a natural birth, my doula suggested a nice long bath, a glass of red wine, relaxation and sleep, sleep, sleep. I did all those things. The contractions and cramping eventually picked up. I found it hard to rest on my side and stay comfortable, so with a tip from the doula, Shawn created a sling for my belly with my Solly Baby Wrap. It worked perfectly. We laid in bed, cuddling and spooning. I slept for a while and felt so relaxed, I thought I may not actually be in labor. Then, the contractions returned.
I knew we probably had several hours of labor ahead of us, so I let Shawn sleep while I kept track of my contractions. But around 3 am, things picked up. I woke Shawn up, and we called our doula, Laura. She arrived around 5 am and soothed me with soft massaging, aromatherapy and other calming techniques. I stayed in bed for a while, laboring and humming through contractions that were around 5-7 minutes apart. Shawn and I took some time to be with each other so that I could relax. We were both so in the moment, just there in bed and laboring together.
We stayed there and, following our OB's advice, hung at home a while longer. Laura suggested I labor on the toilet for a while, which really helped my body loosen up -- until I felt a shift. Contractions started to ramp up. It was time to go. I had entered the "zone." I wasn't talking much and kept my eyes closed a lot, breathing through each contraction and focusing my energy down as much as possible.
I remember looking up at Laura, who was standing above me and saying to her, "Now I know why people have home births." I could not believe that I had to get into a car! I somehow walked out of the apartment and climbed into the Uber. I was on a mission. I rested my head on my pillow and tried to stay focused through the crazy bright sun coming in, the police sirens, the loud car radios and the big energy of a brand new day going on around me.
Once we got to the hospital, around 8 am, I was greeted by a wheelchair that I gladly sat in. My doctor arrived, and we were thrilled to find out I was already 9 cm dilated! I was shocked at how far I was and cried because I knew I would meet my son so soon. I walked myself into the labor & delivery room, and after two giant contractions, boom: my water broke splat on the floor. It was go time.
After about 45 minutes of intense pushing and no pain medication, my baby boy was born. Jude William Jacob weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces and was 21 inches long. He and I had a few blissful hours of skin-to-skin. Shawn and I shared some tears with one another and gushed over our beautiful new baby. My parents arrived shortly after his entrance to this world. Being able to share that with them was so meaningful for me.
It was such an intense, beautiful labor and delivery experience. So perfect in its own way and so memorable. Welcome, Jude the little guy, you are so very loved.
Photography by Laura Vladimirova, who also served as Ashley's birth doula.
Ashley Lafond is the proud mama of Hazel, 4, and Jude, 9 months. She lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with her husband, Shawn Brackbill, and works as the Marketing Manager at a record label.