Samantha Joy had a vision for what the perfect birth would look like.
There would be dim lighting and soft music and lavender essential oils; a supportive birth team who would take care to only address her in calm, quiet tones; a tub filled with water to help her through her medication-free labor; and of course, the empowering moment when she would usher forth her baby into the world, unencumbered by any medical intervention that Ina May Gaskin herself would have frowned upon.
Joy, 33, is an identity coach in Denver, Colorado, where she lives with her partner Gabe, 40. As she described in a September 18 Facebook post, the first-time mom spent months intricately crafting a birth plan for her son’s entry into the world, reading books, exercising, and even practicing visualizations, daily affirmations, and optimal fetal positioning and hypnosis tracks.
“There was no way my birth wouldn’t go smoothly with the belief I put behind it,” she wrote.
In the end, you could say that Joy got a version of her perfect birth — just with a few unexpected twists and turns along the way.
Image Source: Shoshannah Lundeen Photography
As she shared in her Facebook post, Joy’s son would go on to be born after 30+ hours of labor, 9 hours of pushing, and an eventual C-section — everything her aforementioned birth plan did not account for.
“What I envisioned as the perfect birth plan was motivated by the concept that our bodies as women are made to do this,” Joy tells Babble, “so you trust everything will turn out perfectly without much effort; my belief was when you bring in medical intervention, it lowers the chance of that. I [believed] that my body knew exactly what to do, my baby knew what to do, and it would be a smooth process because I was educated; and I knew that if I held trust and didn’t bring in all of this intervention, then things would go great.”
When she first went into labor early one morning, everything did seem to be going according to plan. Joy was able to labor at home until she was 5 centimeters dilated with the support of her doula, Geneva Montano. Then, she and Gabe headed to the hospital, where they were met by their midwife group. The staff was welcoming and accommodating, immediately honoring her birth plan, and Joy says she felt a great sense of peace that her vision was coming true. She labored in a tub and eventually, when she felt her body take over, she pushed.
And pushed. And pushed. And pushed some more.
Since Joy’s birth plan stipulated that there be no clocks in the room, she wasn’t sure how long she was actually pushing at the time. Looking back now, though, she laughs and says it felt like an “eternity.” In actuality, Joy ended up pushing for a whopping 9 hours before her midwife gently suggested that they discuss some other options. Her baby wasn’t in the ideal position, and a doctor was brought in to consult.
Joy notes that she initially had a strong aversion to working with a traditional doctor, but when she showed a gentle respect for her, first asking permission to present her with some options, the first-time mom quickly realized that she had nothing to fear.
“This particular doctor shattered my preconceptions about Western medicine intervening on my experience with the way that she respected my plan while simultaneously informing me of the risks associated with continuing the way I was,” says Joy.
Together, they decided to try an epidural to allow her body to relax enough in hopes of letting the baby change positions. But after three more hours, her baby was showing signs of distress, and the word Joy had dreaded the most was suggested: C-section.
In that moment, when faced with the one thing she’d tried to avoid from the very start of her pregnancy, Joy could have felt fear, shame, or even failure. But instead, she chose to feel proud.
Proud of the fact that she had somehow remained strong through 12+ hours of pushing. Proud that she done all that she could. Proud that she had trusted the process the entire way, and that soon, her son would be here safe and sound.
“I felt a ton of relief knowing he was coming,” she says now, looking back. “I felt so at peace knowing I had tried everything.”
Instead of the unmedicated vaginal delivery she’s hoped for — complete with blissful skin-to-skin bonding time, delayed cord clamping, and immediate breastfeeding — Joy’s son, Landon Hail, was born via C-section. He had difficulty breathing, which required a quick cord cut and swift attention by the staff before finally meeting his mom, who was shaking too hard to even hold him. But he was here and he was healthy, and Joy quickly realized that she had gotten her “perfect” birth after all.
She decided to honor that realization through a powerful image captured by Shoshannah Lundeen Photography in her hospital room, and take to Facebook to share her birth story.
“Before this experience the thought of this outcome felt like a failure, but at that moment I couldn’t be more proud,” Joy wrote in her post. “I tried everything I could, never once felt fear, trusted the process, and got in the end what I TRULY wanted … Our little #LandonHail.”
Joy’s post has since resonated with hundreds, as many women have shared their own “failed” birth experiences in the comments and welcomed the new mom into the “strong” club of motherhood.
“Every baby is born into this world exactly as it should be,” wrote one commenter. “No mistakes. Only perfection.”
As she continues to heal at home from essentially giving birth in two different ways, Joy is soaking up every minute with her 10-day-old son, whom she describes as an “absolute angel.” She’s also carrying the strength and lessons she learned that day with her, as she moves forward on her new path through motherhood — where there’s sure to be plenty more unexpected twists and turns ahead of her.
“In the hard moments, I’ll never forget my doula, [who] said, ‘I have literally never in 500 births seen anyone push as long and strong as you did. I am in awe of you, strong woman. Let that strength guide you through motherhood,'” Joy recalls. “It’s true. Labor and birth is such a metaphor for everything else that follows, I’m realizing.”
“I knew in the end, I would feel this power no matter what,” adds Joy, of her decision to celebrate and share her birth experience exactly the way it was. “And acceptance that it may not have gone perfectly, but that it was mine.”