Laila Ali: CJ’s Birth ‘Was the Way It Was Supposed to Be’
The best laid birth plans can — and do — go awry!
Laila Ali learned as much with son Curtis ‘CJ’ Muhammad, 19 months, when her hopes for a homebirth and all natural delivery were dashed by complications. You won’t catch the Dancing With the Stars alum voicing any regrets, however.
“He is healthy, he is here, and even though everything didn’t go the way I would have liked it to have gone … I’ve always said since the beginning that everything is going to happen the way it’s supposed to,” Ali, 32, explains to My Best Birth.
“I still believe that that’s the way it was supposed to be.”
Pain relief wasn’t the first birth plan departure for Ali. During the fifth month of her pregnancy, she learned that C.J.’s growth had become restricted and that a hospital birth would be necessary.
Having already stated her intentions for a homebirth, Ali was forced to reconsider.
“They didn’t know what the problem was,” she recalls. “The midwives got a little nervous because it has to be a normal situation, and even though it wasn’t an out of control situation, he needed to be monitored.”
Two weeks before her due date doctors then recommended an induction because “conditions [for C.J.] would be better on the outside than they were on the inside.” Ali checked herself into a hospital and reluctantly agreed to the labor-stimulating drug Pitocin.
“[It] makes your contractions twenty times harder, and with me wanting to go natural, that scared me,” she admits. “I was nervous, [and] I wasn’t ever nervous until then.”
Her worst fears were realized when C.J.’s heart rate began to drop with the induction, and a c-section was briefly discussed. When a doctor offered to rupture her membranes with the hope of triggering natural contractions, however, Ali says she jumped at the chance.
“I said of course I’m going to try that,” she recalls. “So we did … and he was okay; My baby was okay.”
The same could not be said for Ali, however. “Those contractions … by the time we got to a certain level it was very, very hard,” she confesses. “I was handling it, but 14 hours and a lot of pain [later], I still was only dilated to 3 cm.”
When doctors suggested that labor could continue for another “six or seven hours,” Ali says she was conflicted.
“I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can hang that long,'” she reveals. “I wasn’t able to eat, because we didn’t know if I would need a c-section; I was dehydrated, I was tired, I felt like I was going to faint, I felt like I wasn’t going to have the energy.”
An informal poll of her friends and family — including husband Curtis Conway — gave Ali the vote of confidence she needed to accept an epidural.
“I felt so bad,” she shares. “I remember asking everyone, ‘Are you going to be disappointed in me?’ And they were like, ‘No, no … get it!'”
Once the decision was made, Ali says she felt no guilt. “No, what I felt after I had it was, ‘This is why women get the epidural,'” she says. “I was like, ‘Man, this is easy!’ No wonder women just keep having babies and want an epidural; They don’t have to feel anything.”
The pain relief, in turn, allowed Ali to “relax” and deliver C.J. “a lot faster” than she would have without it.
While she might still pursue an unmedicated homebirth with subsequent children, Ali says she is proud of C.J.’s delivery nonetheless.
“I did the best that I could,” she proclaims. “I want to do a home birth, because the first time I saw it I said, ‘That’s beautiful, to be in control, to be at home, without medical intervention…’ But it wasn’t something that I was just so adamant about that I was gonna put my baby in danger, or myself in danger.”