Expecting the Unexpected (a birth story)

Apr 01, 2022

A birth story by Ava Berstine-Mitchell. (Originally published: 2020)

“Be flexible and not tied to a detailed or specific plan. Things may not go according to that plan and you need to be ok with that, and in a good place with change”. - Risa, mother of 2.  

Best advice I was given.

My sister told me this and would remind me often. However, easier said than done. None-the-less, I took heed as best I could.

One thing I can say for sure is that I did not plan for so much of what came my way during labor and postpartum.

My daughter was born September, 19th 2019 at 4:20pm by cesarean section due to complications. She had been in distress my entire labor and it only escalated. 

I had never considered a birth by cesarean. I didn’t consider it because I was so confident I was going to have a vaginal birth.

My pregnancy had been really easy, complication free and quite enjoyable. I also chose the words “vaginal birth” opposed to “natural birth” because the latter is often misused. And further more has taken on an elitist connotation meaning “not at a hospital” - whilst a vaginal birth in a hospital is also natural.

One could argue the use of medication is what is deemed unnatural. 

I chose to have my baby at a hospital. I had heard about and read up on home-births, birthing centers, water births and the plethora of other birthing options out there for us, which is so great. But a hospital was sounding like my best and most comfortable option.

I had a great OB, shout out to Dr. Ayanna Walden of Cedars Sinai which is an incredible hospital; resourceful, accommodating and progressive.

I went to work that day, choreographing and dancing on set. She was a day late at this point. I returned home around 6pm. Contractions started around 7pm.

I didn’t know that they were contractions initially to be honest. They were so close together for so long, 2 to 5 minutes apart. So we were advised to head to the hospital.

I thought wow, this is it, we are doing this and it’s happening fast.

Oh, and the throwing-up. No one tells you about the throwing-up from the pain and agony of contractions. Anyone else? This carried on sporadically throughout my entire labor. 

We arrived at the hospital around 11pm to find out I was only one centimeter dilated. I couldn’t believe it. They almost sent me home, but I had low to no amniotic fluid left so they suggested I stay to be monitored.

From this point on, I would get no rest. My contractions were oddly close together, dilating less than a centimeter every few hours, to no avail. This carried on for several hours.  

Twenty-one hours of labor, by my rough calculations. They could no longer regulate her heart rate and she was unstable.

I cried when my doctor made the decision to take me in for surgery. I felt defeated. I felt like I had lost. I hate that I felt like that because I had put in work!

Almost twenty hours of laboring sans epidural, with the exception of the last couple of hours (before being taken into surgery) of laboring bliss, which I attribute to the much frowned upon epidural.

Bliss I tell you! My contractions were exceptionally close the entire time. I recall the moment where I felt I couldn’t take it anymore. I had a contraction and as one ended, the other began. No break!

I felt like I was going to pass out. My doctor had come in earlier saying, “Ava, there is medication for this [your pain], you don’t have to go through all this.” I will say, I am glad that I endured and felt those nineteen hours of contractions because I felt like a G. Like a freaking super hero.

In all seriousness, I surprised myself at the amount of pain I could tolerate. I not only took those contractions, but with calmness and patience, consistently breathing deeply and slowly.

In my mind that was the way to be.

I never yelled out or lost it like in the movies, but not to be mistaken, that reaction is also very real. I recall a nurse saying to me, “ You are very calm. Wow!” 

Being taken into surgery was terrifying.

I had never had surgery before, if we aren’t counting my wisdom teeth. I recall shaking uncontrollably while I lie there awake and numb from the torso down, with a blue tarp draped above me blocking my view of any and everything going on with my body.

It was just me, my husband, my OB and her assistant and a few personnel in there.

You may be numb, but you can certainly feel the tugging and pulling going on.

It was all so foreign and very strange. I cried. My husband at my side worried, asking what was wrong.

Thirty minutes later, I gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

Turned out the umbilical cord had been wrapped and sitting on her neck. Although I desired to deliver vaginally, I no longer feel defeated. Those feelings were fleeting after giving birth to my baby girl. And the silver lining, my vagina was spared.

My story doesn’t end there, as a host of other obstacles awaited me postpartum.

My newborn revealed a congenital disorder of the digestive system called pyloric stenosis just a few weeks into her precious life and had to undergo surgery.

Spending five days in the hospital, stressed and worried, milk supply suffering so much so, you don’t realize until your child won’t stop crying after feeding. Hence forth, you begin to cry because you realize you are no longer enough.

Supplementing with formula was not easy, but I literally had no choice at that point.

I held a bias when it came to breastfeeding. I was determined to never use formula.

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago when my daughter turned 7 months that I surrendered to the fact that she was drinking formula and it was okay.

Giving birth, parenting, raising an entire human, will never be void of curve balls and surprises. All we can do is our best and what we choose is best for ourselves.

Be gentle with yourself. You aren’t the first to do it, but you are a part of a legion of extraordinary humans…Women, child bearing women.

God is amazing and gestation and birth by design is miraculous. I miss being pregnant. I don’t intend to do it again, but I will forever cherish that time in my life.

I spared some details. But I do hope my story brings a bit of hope and security to you and your journey. I thank God for my baby girl in spite of all we went through. Not once did I doubt His plan for us.

Just know, you got this.


Talk about it, whatever "it" is. Have mom friends. Always make time for yourself, you are too a priority.

Written by Ava Berstine-Mitchell @avaflav1

What you should do next:

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#3) Start your course today! Join other birthing goddesses just like you who are stepping into their power and experiencing incredibly peaceful, trauma-free childbirth. After working with over 3,000 moms, I can honestly say there is something here for every one ;)

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#5) Click here to grab a copy of my latest book  "Surviving Childbirth": 5 unconventional steps to trauma-free birth, & the top 13 myths about childbirth that must be busted". This book right here is a game changer for anyone looking to truly become the boss of your own birth.

With love & light, Danielle Jai Watson (your Cosmic Doula) xo

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