Soul on Fire – My Childbirth Story

Disclaimer: The following blog contains highly regarded personal information. I chose to make it public so that I could share the miracle of childbirth with others. Please refrain from judging or using this experience as a measuring stick. Each birth is beautiful and unique in its own way. Thank you.

Update 5/11/09 – My story is now being featured on Faye Read’s web site SoulBirth . Faye is a Registered Nurse and Midwife, an independent Community Childbirth Educator, Natural Therapist, Energy Intuitive and mother of 4 beautiful children. Thank you, Faye.

My son Denzin turns 3 months this week. In honor of his milestone I finished writing his birth story and with great pleasure would like to share with you here. His debut into this world, without a doubt, is the pinnacle of my life. I can’t think of another experience as grand, profound and enlightening as this one. So tighten your seatbelts and prepare for a long but very exciting ride which I shall call Soul on Fire.

It all started on Wednesday, December 10, 2008. Denzin’s due date was Christmas Eve, about two weeks away. That morning I was scheduled to go in for my final ultrasound. I couldn’t sleep all night from the excitement that I will get to see my soon-to-be-born baby in my womb one last time. But before Mark and I left for our appointment, I figured to share the joy by writing an email update to my family and friends. I told them that the big day is near but I still have no symptoms or signs of labor. Little did I know, my labor would officially begin later that evening.

Everything looked great in the ultrasound. Denzin’s head was down my pelvis in a perfect position for delivery. His heartbeat was strong, movements well-defined and weighed about 7 ½ pounds. He even grinned at us in one of his 3D pictures. Anxiously, I asked my midwife JoAnn Yates how I would know when labor begins. She replied, “Oh, you will know. Trust me.” Early contractions will feel like premenstrual cramps, she added. Later in the afternoon I noticed mild cramps in my lower abdomen but I didn’t think much of it since I’ve felt that way before.

In the evening, I went to Babies R US to make some final purchases. Buying a glider chair was on top of my list. As I was walking through the store the cramps escalated. A couple of times I had to sit down and rest for a few minutes until they passed. I started feeling an intense pulling sensation in my uterus as if it was about to fall off any moment. Barely walking, I purchased the glider and drove back home.

At about 10 pm, as I was waiting for Mark to come back home from a business trip, I went on the Internet and searched for “early signs of labor.” I figured to prepare myself as much as I can because you never know when the big day will arrive. One of the signs was the passing of the mucus plug. The mucus plug is the barrier that protects bacteria from entering the uterus and infecting the fetus. Usually, when labor begins the plug is discharged, clearing the birth canal for the baby. However, not all women experience that symptom and if it happens it doesn’t indicate the baby will be born soon. It may take up to a few days before the actual birth.

On my next trip to the bathroom I noticed something strange in the bowl. All signs pointed that it was my mucus plug. Yet my first reaction was doubt. I quickly texted my mom, Mark’s mom, his sister and a few friends who are mothers to ask about the plug. Then I paged and talked to my midwife on duty JoAnn Yates. She calmly confirmed that it was indeed my mucus plug and suggested to get some rest because I will need my energy when labor begins in a day or two. By that time (midnight) Mark was back home and I told him all about the incident in the bathroom. He was so tired that he just nodded and suggested we both go to bed.

While Mark went to sleep in a matter of minutes I kept waking up every 20-30 minutes due to the intensity of my contractions. They were becoming too close and too painful for me to ignore. At around 4 am, I gave up on sleep, got up and began walking back and forth. It was clear that labor had begun. I tried to wake Mark up but he was sound asleep. I called my mom next and she said that she will get dressed and come in the next 30 minutes. While waiting for her to arrive, I got a notebook, pen, and my large birthing (balance) ball and went back to the bedroom. I shook Mark up and said this is IT…I am in labor and need his help timing my contractions. I don’t think Mark realized the seriousness of the situation at the time. He wasn’t prepared for the birth and knew nothing of the symptoms. That Friday we were supposed to have our one-on-one birthing class with a nurse by the name of Monique at Morristown Memorial Hospital. She was the only nurse who knew Sign Language and was able to prepare both of us for the birthing experience.

My mom and sister arrived shortly after. My sister volunteered to time and write down the contractions. They were down to every 5 minutes. At first sitting on the birthing ball helped take the edge off, but that comfort soon wore out. Mom suggested filling up the bath tub and sitting in the water. Good idea at first but that too wore out fast. I couldn’t hold off any longer and paged my midwife again. With the regularity and strength of my contractions she said it was time to go to the hospital. Mark looked at me and happily exclaimed, “Zoe, we will be parents by the end of the day.” I couldn’t believe the big day has finally arrived.

The morning of Thursday, December 11, was one of those days that you would gladly call off from work and spend it sleeping in bed. The sky was dark, the air was cold and rain was pouring heavily. By the time we packed up and left it was almost 8 am. The hospital was 30 minutes away but considering the rush hour morning commute, no matter which road we took, we found ourselves in dead-lock traffic. Our best option was to take New Jersey Parkway since we could use the emergency lane to move thorough faster.

The ride to the hospital felt like a scene from a movie – me moaning in pain in the back seat, mom trying to comfort me by holding my hand and Mark speeding in the emergency lane in morning rush hour traffic on a rainy winter day. I never thought that is how it was going to happen. It was completely surreal. I remember passing the cars and thinking to myself, “here those people are going about their average work day and I am going to the most important workday in my life – delivering my first child.” I wondered if any of them had a clue the car driving in the emergency lane was carrying a woman in an advanced stage of labor.

As if God was helping us, we didn’t get pulled over by the cops and made it to the hospital in a little over 45 minutes. Mark and mom wheeled me in as fast as they could to Labor and Delivery Department. Good thing I pre-registered so I didn’t have to do file any paperwork. My midwife also called in advance and warned them of my arrival. Here is when something quite fascinating happened. Remember earlier in the blog I mentioned that we were supposed to have a birthing class with Monique on Friday? Well, the nurse that checked us in was none other than Monique. We didn’t make it to her class but she was on duty that morning and turned out to be our delivery nurse. She signed to Mark and kept him in the loop of everything that was going on. The timing couldn’t have been better!

Monique moved me to my delivery room where she strapped a baby heart monitor to my belly and began observing my contractions. She asked if I wanted an epidural to which I replied no, thank you. I know, you probably think I was crazy but after viewing Ricky Lake’s documentary The Business of Being Born (highly recommend it for any pregnant woman) I was determined to deliver my child all naturally with no assistance of painkillers. That was my ultimate goal and there was nothing in the world that could change my mind. The only exception would have been if there was a life-threatening situation to which I would have been more flexible to consider painkillers.

The next midwife on duty that morning was Donna. She arrived 30 minutes later. She checked me for dilatation and concluded I was at 4 centimeters. It’s important to note that my water had not broken yet. Donna was aware of that and in her second push I think she broke my water without telling me. Of course, I knew after a powerful flow of warm liquid gashed out of me. Now that my water was broken I requested to move to the Jacuzzi. My plan was to have water birth, one of the least painful and most natural ways to bring your child into this world. Monique started the Jacuzzi, lit up the Lavender aromatherapy and I jumped in. It was 10 am and according to Donna’s estimate, I was going to have my baby by 2 or 3 pm.

The water took the weight of my body and made the contraction more tolerable. Unfortunately, it prevented the baby heart monitor from reading accurately. Monique was concerned about that and suggested moving out of the Jacuzzi for a little bit so that she can get a better reading.

Next I found myself sitting on a birthing ball, leaning on the edge of the bed. At that point the contractions turned from tolerable to painful. When they struck, they literally took my breath away. Donna and Monique instructed me to relax and breathe slowly when they peaked because if I got tense, the pain would have gotten worse. I won’t lie to you but the thought of getting an epidural grew more tempting by the minute. Part of me was afraid of what was to come but part of me knew I will be okay without the epidural. I will always remember between one of the contractions Mark saying, “Look at me. Who loves you?” Not sure how but at that moment, as I looked up into his compassionate loving eyes, I experienced a jolt of positive energy through my body. With Mark and mom by my side I began saying out loud, “I can do this! I can do this!”

Donna checked me again and this time I was at 8 centimeters. I was dilating quite rapidly, she noted. Then she instructed me to begin pushing if I felt the urge. She must have said that around noon because the next midwife, Joanne Cunha, just arrived for her shift switch. Pushing I had no urge to do. Instead I suddenly had the urge to go to the bathroom. Mind you I had not eaten in the last 16 hours and my stomach was close to empty. Yet my stomach felt like a hard ball that couldn’t hold anything in. I vomited a few times and then…I felt the baby’s head descend in my pelvis. “Oh, my God!” I screamed frantically, “I’m ‘bout to give birth!!!” Joanne wanted me off the toilet seat immediately but I couldn’t move. She convinced me that if I deliver on the toilet bowl the baby might suffer life-threatening injuries if not caught properly. With the help of Mark and mom somehow I found strength to lift myself off and walked straight to the bed.

In the following five minutes my concept of time completely vanished. As my body hit the bed, I felt the enormous urge to push. Pain like no other shot down my pelvis. In a single gasp for air, I collected every drop of strength in my body and pushed as if my life depended on it. At the same time I screamed from the top of my lungs “Get the baby Oooout!!!” I thought the sooner the baby was out the sooner the pain would end. I gasped for air and pushed again. I heard either Donna or Joanne say to pace myself or I would not have any voice left for tomorrow. Pace myself? Are you kidding? When the time to push comes there is no going back. You don’t act out of thought but out of instinct. My instinct was to get the baby out as fast as I could.

While all that was going on with my physical body something else was happening with my spiritual self. In the midst of the pain I kept reminding myself to stay awake and aware of everything going on. I wanted to feel the birth to the fullest, in its raw and pure momentum. By surrendering myself and letting the experience saturate my soul I felt more alive than ever before. I knew that was the climactic moment of my existence on earth. My soul was set on fire.

Before I could take another breath my son was out successfully and placed on my chest at 12:15 pm. Then I heard his first cry. I don’t know how to put this into words but seeing Denzin for the first time was like seeing God in His full power and glory. Witnessing such a miracle left me in a state of shock and disbelief for a couple of minutes. I kept repeating “I have a baby. I have a baby. I have a baby.” Then I looked to my right and saw Mark shedding tears of joy. To my left, my mom, also crying, was snapping picture after picture and exclaiming, “Denzin is beautiful, mama!”

After Denzin let out a few more cries he became quiet and alert. He looked straight into my eyes while his tiny fingers grabbed my index finger and squeezed instinctively with all the strength they had. I looked into his eyes as if I was looking at his soul and spoke softly, “Hi Denzin. I am your mommy.” Saying that filled my heart with unbelievable amount of love. I thought I was going to burst out with joy. All the pain I just endured magically disappeared and all that existed was just me and my baby boy. I squeezed him closer to my body and kissed his forehead. I wanted him to know he was safe and protected.

Holding Denzin the first time left a huge mark on my soul. It gave me sense of being one with all those mothers who have given birth before me. We are all the same in sacrificing our bodies for the sake of giving life to another one of God’s offsprings. What a privilege and honor was to join such an exclusive club as motherhood, I thought.

Proud daddy Mark took Denzin to the other room where Monique got him cleaned up and weighed in. He came at 8 pounds and 3 ounces, 21 inches long. For arriving two weeks early, he was definitely a big boy. In the meantime, my midwife Joanne had to do a little repair down there. Apparently I pushed so hard that I tore a little bit, which is pretty common with natural childbirth. When she told me that I pushed for a total of 5 minutes I could not believe it. On average it takes most women 2-3 hours to push the last few inches. In my case, one minute I was sitting on the toilet and the next I had the baby. Joanne said that she has never seen anyone that could push as hard as I did. I guess all those years of playing volleyball and doing leg presses paid off at the right time, I joked with her.

Later that afternoon Mark and I got to enjoy our new bundle of joy in our private post-partum room. Upon our request, Denzin spent all of the time with us except for necessary checkups and routine visits. Mark and I couldn’t help but marvel at the perfection of his features, the peacefulness of his sleep and the cute little grunting sounds he would make. December 11 might have been an ordinary weekday to some but to us it was the most special day of our lives. We were now officially a family.

This beautiful birthing experience would have not been possible without the help of all that participated, a.k.a. my birthing team. My gratitude goes out first to the midwifes at Avalon Center for Women’s Health – Donna, Joanne Cunha and JoAnn Yates. They took an exceptional prenatal care of me, patiently addressed all of Mark and my concerns prior to labor and offered round-the-clock support during labor. I am looking forward to them being part of baby #2 someday in the future.

Second, I would like to thank our hospital tour guide Pam and our delivery nurse Monique from Morristown Memorial Hospital. Mark and I did our tour a month before Denzin’s birth and Pam made it an extraordinary experience. We knew we would be in good hands when the big day arrived. Monique shall forever be imprinted in our memory as well. Everything happens for a reason and there was definitely a reason for Denzin to be born on the morning when she was on duty. Considering that Mark is deaf, Monique was God-sent to help facilitate the communication during the delivery so that he doesn’t feel left out.

Next I would like to give a huge credit to my mom who was there for me from day one in my pregnancy and showed nothing but unconditional love and support. Many times when I was growing up and felt sick or had pain mom would say that she would gladly take my place if she could. On my big day, instead of wishing my pain away, she empowered me to believe in my hidden strength and use it during labor. She held my hand, stroked my hair and whispered quietly that I am a strong woman and would overcome this obstacle too. Also, I want to thank her for documenting my birthing experience so diligently. For someone who doesn’t like to take pictures she captured just about every stage of labor. Thank you, mommy, for being a solid part of my birthing team.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without my soulmate Mark. My heart is forever indebted to him for making me a mommy to our beautiful angel Denzin. His maturity, reliability, compassion, love and support have proven time after time the greatness of his spirit. Our son will have the best daddy in the world as a role model. Thank you, Marky, for being the rock in my life and for selflessly and unconditionally sharing your loving heart with Denzin and me.

Looking back on my childbirth experience I feel blessed to have gone through it in the purest and most natural way with such a great team. Through pain and sacrifice I realized the immeasurable value of creating a new life. As I reached into the depths of my being I found unshakable strength that I may have never come to know had I taken the epidural. I tested my own limits and shuttered them into pieces. The reward was waiting at the edge. I met God and he introduced me to my soul.

© 2009 Zoe Vaklinova – All Rights Reserved

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13 thoughts on “Soul on Fire – My Childbirth Story

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  1. You are an amazing person though we have only talked back in forth through email I have always felt that you are a special person. Reading this blog about the journey of childbirth makes hope someday that I meet a person as wonderful as you. I also never knew that Mark is deaf I dont think you ever mentioned in your blogs but I could be wrong. I have several friends who are deaf or have lost most of their hearing. I know losing one sense increases the others. As for your handsome new son now almost 3 months old he is lucky to have parents like you. As for your mother I know she is a special woman just because she give birth to a beautiful daughter such as you. God Bless you all Give Love.
    Brian T. Reilly

  2. Zoe,
    What a beautiful birth story. Reading it took me back to a very similar day almost 20 years ago when I gave birth to my son, and only child. I still relive that beautiful God graced moment in my mind every year on his birthday. Your story brought tears to my eyes because I can tell that will also cherish that day forever. Not everyone does, you know? God Bless your family.

  3. Dear Zoe,

    Thank you very much for sharing this beautiful story with us. You are a magnificent writer and I absolutely enjoy all your blogs! This one is without doubt the most exceptional well written blog ever! It brought tears to my eyes! Happy tears of exciment while reading it.
    Do you know if I can rent from Block Buster the video “The Business of Being Born”?
    Have a blessed week!
    Denzin is a precious little angel who has two precious angels as parents!


  4. Zoe, Beautifully written! It was a joy to read-thank you. And thank you and Mark for giving us a beautiful grandson.

  5. Thank You for sharing this special day with us Zoe, I loved reading your wonderful open and honest story 🙂

    I will admit I did cringe about the toilet part 😛

    You are an amazing inspiration to us all!

  6. Zoe, this was amazing! You had some funny times in here! I am sure there are parts of this you can look back on and get a little chuckle!
    I am soo happy for you! Birth and motherhood have been such a wonderful experience for me and to read this brought tears of joy to my eyes, reminding me of Matty’s big day…only 5 days before your son!
    Your blogs are insprirational and I really do enjoy reading them…keep em’ coming!

  7. Karen ~

    I should be thanking you for giving birth to my sweetheart Mark. You raised and shaped a beautiful little soul into an incredible man.

    Denzin has the best grandparents in you and David. 🙂

    ~ Zoe

  8. Gisella ~

    Thank you for your kind words. It took some time to finish the blog and I’m glad it’s finally done. I also believe that is my best writing to date. Glad you enjoyed it.

    The Business of Being Born, as far as I know, is only available on Netflix. That’s how I watched it. You can check your local Blockbuster but I doubt they carry it.

    ~ Zoe

  9. Lisa, I feel saddness for women who take such miracle from God for granted. Their souls are so jaded as they live an illusion they call reality. I pray they awaken sooner rather than later and realize that what matters the most are the moments that take our breath away. Thank you for your response.

  10. Dearest Zoe, I read this when you first wrote it, but have just now discovered that I hadn’t replied. For which I apologize, mainly because I’ve never been so late before. A beautifully written story, written by a beautiful lady about a true miracle. And thanks for sharing your family with us.

  11. Thanks for the beautiful and inspiring story of your wonderful birth experience.I was fortunate enough – blessed, really, to deliver my 2nd child with Avalon nearly 12 years ago at Mountainside. Lisa Millstein was my delivering angel, literally, but amusingly enough she was the one Midwife in the group that I hadn’t met!!! I was in Clifton and she was working in west Caldwell. I enjoyed exemplary care from Joann Yates and Donna for the whole pregnancy (in sharp contrast to my 1st which was OBGYN up the kazoo!!!)but when it came down to the wire, Lisa was the one on duty. The whole pregnancy and labor was a joyful, meaningful and respectful experience thanks to the great attitude and knowledge of these lovely ladies and I will always be very thankful to them
    Warm regards, Ora

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