Before the Birth

From the beginning I knew that I wanted to have an unmedicated birth. I wanted to “go the distance!” I wanted this labor and delivery to be everything that my first wasn’t and thankfully, it was. It was an amazingly beautiful experience that wouldn’t have been possible without my fantastic birthing team, my husband and doing my homework.

I started off with the same ObGYN that delivered my first but I knew that I wanted a Black doula. This time around I wanted someone that looked like me to be present in the room. I didn’t like that with my first birth, I didn’t see a single black or brown face the entire time. I knew that my husband would have my back, but it’s nice to have a second person that knows my wishes. Latisa Ratliff of PS Love, Mommy Doula Services was recommended to me through a Facebook friend. She was SUCH a godsend. She helped me with aroma therapy, massage and even helped me wash Sophie’s old baby clothes. Through our meetings she pushed me to go for what I really wanted and talk to a midwife.

You know what? That was the best decision I could have made. I called Willow Midwife Center for Birth and Wellness and after the first appointment switched healthcare providers at about 24 weeks pregnant. Here’s the thing: most women don’t know that they can change providers, like it’s not allowed but that’s not true! All of these people are healthcare providers and we can choose who provides that care.

Seriously, I felt at home there right away. I felt empowered and capable and more than anything, I felt heard. And, bonus: they had a Black midwife on staff, Roxanne Barnes. I had appointments with all of the midwives so that I could get to know them as you can’t predict who will be on call when the day comes. But in all honesty I was praying that Roxanne would be on call.

This time around I wanted to go completely natural with as little intervention as possible. So to prepare myself I took prenatal yoga. Yes it’s a thing and dear God it was hard, probably because I had never done yoga before. I also meditated to an amazing hypnobirthing track. I’m not sure if I would label everything I did as prenatal care but it was definitely self care.

I took some time to myself to just, relax. I went to the movies with friends but I also went a few times by myself. I got pedicures and fell asleep while they rubbed my feet and calves. I took steamy Epsom salt baths while eating homemade popsicles, sipping ice cold water and binge watching Netflix in the dark. Seriously, I did anything I needed to do any time I felt stressed or overwhelmed.

The Big Day

On the third day of the 41st week of my pregnancy I had my second little girl. IT. WAS. AWESOME.

Around 3 am I woke up with some mild discomfort in my lower back, but I couldn’t tell what it was yet so I tried a shower and laid back down. Then 5:30 hit and I was like, “Nope, things are happening.” I woke up my husband, who had just gone to bed because he works nights, to let him know that I was in labor. I called Willow to let them know what was happening and texted Latisa.

I propped myself up with pillows on all fours and breathed through my early contractions. Around 9, Emily, from Willow, called to check on me and told me to head on to Banner Ironwood. Ironwood is one of the few hospitals in the valley that give privileges to midwives.

I did the usual check-in and my family settled in to our room, which was huge by the way in comparison to the first room I birthed in. I declined being hooked up to an IV and opted for a Hep lock instead and told hospital staff that I was not consenting to cervix checks. Emily and Latisa sprinkled orange essential oils on the bed and pillows, turned up the thermostat to warm up the room and turned down the lights while I got undressed because I wanted to be totally free. They rubbed my feet and my legs and gave me counter-pressure in my hips and back as Phil watched Sophie and fielded calls from our out-of-state mothers.

My best friend LaQoia arrived and things really picked up. And, when I tell you I labored all over that ward, I mean I labored in every position and place available. On all fours in bed and then with the peanut ball and the squat bar. On the birthing stool. In the tub with Sophie. On the toilet. Walking and squatting through contractions in the hall. LaQoia even slow danced me around the room.

They fed me turkey sandwiches and orange slices between contractions. Part way through Emily switched places with Roxanne but I’m not sure how far in. Ultimately I gave birth down on one knee, gripping my friend for stability in the shower as Roxanne caught my little one. Phil and Sophie watched on from the doorway. May 21st, 7:58 pm.

After a minute or two I waddled to the bed to birth the placenta and get shot of Pitocin in the leg to stop my bleeding. While checking for tearing, Roxanne found that I had a pretty bad one because my previous perineal scar had keloided. I ended up having to go back to the OR about an hour later to have a surgeon stitch me up. And at some point I realized that my entire birthing team was Black aside from Emily. My doula, midwife, bff, surgeon and even my anesthesiologist. Unheard of. Especially in Arizona and of all places Queen Creek. I. Was. Gagged. I was grateful and amazed. In my wildest dreams, I hadn’t imagined that this could happen, but happened for me.

Two days later we were able to go home, happy and healthy all around. I had gotten everything I wanted out of my birthing experience which could be summed up into one word. Freedom. Freedom to move, eat, make noise, make my own choices without judgment, to have family present, to dance, to take up space and not feel rushed. I birthed surrounded by love and without fear.

Jacqueline Castillo is a married mommy of two little girls. She works as an actress, beta-reader, book editor and director for children’s musicals.  Jacqueline is passionate about equity and inclusion in the arts,  early education (especially literacy) and natural birthing experiences. You can follow her on instagram @jacqui_monet.