I had been having Braxton-hick for weeks. I never had them with my first so this was a whole new experience for me. I could feel her powerful kicks, and I knew she was strong. I talked to her often, telling her how excited I was for her to join our family. I started eating dates every day, and drinking Third-Trimester Tea. I was anxious about having yet another hospital birth, and even debated a last minute “unplanned” unassisted. But after much prayer, conversation, and thought, I decided it would be best for us to go ahead and go to the hospital. Michael promised me with the next baby, he would do everything in his power to make a homebirth happen. I knew I had to trust God to be my protector in the labor room, to be my Great Physician and Shepherd who would help, guide and protect me through the birthing process.
Friday morning, just over a week before her guess-date, I woke up around 3 am with fairly consistent contractions. I waited until Michael got up for work at 6 to tell him. He went on to work, and I made some tea and started getting things ready. I called my neighbor and friend who would be watching John, my oldest. After a while, the contractions tapered off. Disappointed, I walked the mile into town, hoping to kick-start labor again. While at my favorite thrift store, I ran into an acquaintance who’s wife was also pregnant. He shared with me that their baby girl had been born a few days earlier, in a beautiful unplanned unassisted birth. I was so encouraged and inspired by his story I almost didn’t mind that my labor seemed to have stopped.
The contractions didn’t pick up that day, or the next. I tried not to be too disappointed and to make sure I really did have everything together and ready to go. I had been checking my cervix through my third trimester, and I was dilated to maybe a three and losing lots of clear mucous. I continued snacking on dates and red raspberry leaf tea. I knew it would soon.
Sunday morning around 1am I woke up to contractions about 7 min apart. I had to get on my knees in bed and quietly moan through them. I woke up Michael to let him know. We started to get everything together. I texted my doula and let her know what was happening. Around 5am the three of us decided it was time to make the drive. The contractions were about 5 minutes apart, and the hospital was a good hour and twenty minutes away, so we didn’t want to wait till the last minute. We woke up our neighbors and dropped off John. I was excited, but anxious as well.
Once in the car, the contractions stopped. I would have the odd one here or there, but nothing consistent like before. We stopped at a coffee shop so I could have some breakfast before we got the hospital, knowing we’d have to fight ridiculous “no solid food” rules once we got there. I had a couple strong rushes while we were there, but once again they stalled in the car. When we finally got to the hospital, we decided not to go into the labor ward right away. Instead, we walked the hospital grounds in the early morning light. We hung out in the hospital lobby. My doula had decided to wait before meeting us at the hospital, in case the contractions didn’t pick up again.
Finally I told Michael we should leave. Maybe I was just anxious about being at the hospital, and thought leaving would help. We went to a drugstore for some eye drops, a restaurant for some more food, and then tried to get a hotel room. Since it was still so early in the morning, they wanted to charge us for two nights. We decided against it. It was now about 7am and I had been awake for 6 hours with almost no sleep before that. We pulled into a park so I could lie in the back of the car and rest. After about ten minutes I decided this was stupid, labor had obviously stalled, and we just needed to go home. As we headed back up the hill, my contractions started again. I laughed at the irony. This baby just wanted to be born at home!
I picked up John from my friend’s house and walked home. Michael went to work to finish up a few things. I felt silly and stupid for having a “false alarm” like that. As John had been awake since we dropped him off that morning, we both laid down for a nap. I had a few more contractions but nothing I couldn’t sleep through.
Then around 11am they started to pick up again. I was annoyed. Couldn’t my body just make up its mind?! The contractions were very inconsistent. After consulting with my doula friends online, I decided not to encourage labor at this point. I took a warm shower and just tried to relax. No pressure points, no walking, just lots of water and rest, a Tylenol and a hot shower. The contractions remained consistently inconsistent. 12 minutes apart. 7 minutes apart. 10 minutes apart. 5 minutes apart. Michael came home, and he sat on the couch while I knelt over the birthing ball, just trying to relax. He would rub my back during contractions, and encourage John to help him.
Around 3pm I decided to go lay down again. I had to moan through contractions, and they were almost unbearable without Michael rubbing my lower back. But they were still so inconsistent. They definitely weren’t following a pattern of getting stronger and closer together. I had my parents on standby, as they had a six-hour drive ahead of them, I doubted they would make it in time for the birth. Then, at one point, I looked up to see John throwing up all over the floor. What?! He suddenly had diarrhea too! I called my mom and asked if they could come down. It could still be a few days before the baby came, but I didn’t want to have to send a sick kid to the neighbor’s house! Nor take care of one by myself in prodromal labor. So they packed up and started the journey down, not a moment too soon.
I texted my doula and asked her to come over so she could work on my back and give Michael a break. I decided to take another shower in the mean time to calm the contractions. I checked my cervix again, and it was still very high. So high I couldn’t tell how far dilated I was. But, I could touch her head! I had been having bloody show all day, so I knew my plug was gone, but thankfully my water was still intact. As I undressed in the bathroom, I happened to glance in the mirror and see a purple line on my lower back. “No way!” I thought. A purple line running up the butt crack is a sign of dilation. Once the line reaches the top of the butt, it signals that the cervix is at 10 cm. But I couldn’t be at 10cm already, could I? The contractions had been so inconsistent, and I didn’t feel like I was in transition, mentally or physically.
I stepped in the shower and tried to just relax. As another wave came over me, I heard myself pray, “Oh God, please let Michael forgive me for what I’m about to do!” That made me pause. What was I about to do? Suddenly I realized, “I’m going to have this baby right now!” I could feel her moving lower and lower into my pelvis. I stayed in the shower till all the hot water ran out, filled with doubt about going to the hospital still, half hoping that she would suddenly come and I would get my accidental freebirth.
I got out of the shower, and realized I couldn’t stand by myself during contractions. I had to lean on Michael and sway. My knees gave out with each surge, and they left me feeling weak and nauseous. They had all of a sudden jumped to three minutes apart, consistently. Michael asked if I wanted to go back to the hospital again. I was scared. I didn’t want another false alarm. It was such a waste of gas and everybody’s time! After Michael reassured me it was ok, we would make the drive 20 times if we had to, I agreed to go.
Getting in the car was the last thing I wanted to do at this point, and I was genuinely concerned we might have a roadside baby. But we called our neighbor to come get John again, and texted our doula and my parents to let them know what was going on. I found out later our doula was almost to our house, so she just turned around and followed us down. Thankfully the contractions slowed down in the car again, but stayed regular. I felt like there was a baseball between my legs the whole time. And of course, we hit every red light along the way.
At one point, as I felt another surge building, I said out loud “I don’t want to do another one!” Michael rubbed my hand, which helped distract from the sensations in my belly. But that contraction was definitely harder. I knew I had to keep a positive attitude. “Just one more,” I kept thinking. “I can do anything for 1 minute.”
We finally arrived at the hospital. Since it was after 6pm we had to go in through the ER. I had to fill out some forms, even though I was preregistered. They called for a wheelchair. I explained I didn’t need one, I didn’t want to sit down anyways, but the aide insisted she would get in trouble if she didn’t bring me up with a wheelchair. I told her she was welcome to bring the wheelchair with us, but I was not sitting down. We used it to bring up the luggage.
Once in triage, I changed into the hospital gown. I was too tired to protest or care at that point. I sighed and resigned myself to lie down on the monitors. It was awful lying down like that. When the nurse left, I turned to Michael and whimpered, “I hate this. I wouldn’t have to do this if we were at home.” He had already promised me our next baby would be a home birth, but that didn’t make this hospital birth any easier.
The on-call midwife finally came in to check me. I was only 6cm. I was so disappointed. I realize now that I had likely closed up from being in the car and at the hospital, and I probably was 10cm at home. But at the time I was only 6cm, and felt so discouraged. I didn’t even have an idea of how much longer we’d be there before she was born. The midwife informed me of my GBS positive status, which I knew about already, and mention the routine antibiotics. I told her I was familiar with the risks and had decided to forgo treatment. After a brief lecture, I was finally shown to a labor/birth room.
Once we were alone in the room, Michael asked me if I would reconsider the antibiotics. He had known my plans before hand, but hearing the midwife’s lecture had made him nervous. I agreed to go ahead and get treatment. I had been on the fence about denying the antibiotics anyways, so his request was all I needed to hear. We told my nurse we had changed our minds, and she went to tell the midwife, and also let my doula in. My doula instantly set up shop, setting up a diffuser with lavender essential oil and getting out her labor balls to massage my back. She also had some peppermint essential oil on a cotton ball, which really helped with the nausea I was feeling after each surge.
The nurse had asked me to lie back down on the monitors for a few minutes. I asked if we could wait till after the next contractions. She agreed and went about her business, setting up equipment and preparing the IV. Since she was so busy, I decided to stay standing up until she asked me to lie down again. She put the IV in my hand while I was leaning against Michael and my doula was rubbing my back. I stayed like that for a while, with Michael and my doula taking turns rubbing my back and being my support. As it turned out, I never did end up going back on the monitors.
Finally my mom showed up. My dad had dropped her off and gone on up to our house to pick up John. It was very special for me to have my mom there. She had offered to be there when John was born, but since I was laboring all night I felt bad and told her to go home. Now I realized how much it meant to both of us to have her there. My mom has always been a huge advocate of natural childbirth, having herself used the Bradley method. I have learned so much from her about birth while growing up. I loved having her by my side for this experience.
After a while I felt my legs getting tired. When my doula mentioned getting on the bed, I quickly agreed. I climbed up and knelt on the bed, leaning against the raised headboard. It felt so good to be able to relax my whole body against the sheets. I munched on ice, spoon-fed to me between surges, and I also asked to hold the cotton ball of peppermint oil myself, so I didn’t have to ask for it every time. I still had no idea how much longer things would be. I only knew I could do one more.
Suddenly I felt her head low in the birth canal, and I HAD to push. “UUUGGHH I’m pushing!” I moaned loudly. The nurse calmly asked me to roll over so she could check me. “Um, no!” I thought. When she asked again, my doula leaned down and repeated the question to me. I shook my head violently. No freaking way could I move right then. One contraction rolled into another as I groaned and pushed. I felt the nurse’s hand (I don’t know why she couldn’t have just checked me like that to begin with), reach in and touch the baby’s head. Obviously my back was turned so I didn’t see what happened next, but I was told later that the nurse turned and ran out of the room, ripping her gloves off and yelling for the midwife as soon as she hit the hallway. My mom turned to my doula and did a fist pump. The baby was coming!
With my first, I had a pushing urge, but it definitely wasn’t quite so intense. This time, it was like taking a giant poop. She HAD to come out NOW! “I want her out of me!” I yelled. I let out a growl/scream and pushed as hard as I could. I knew I was probably going to tear; I didn’t even care, I just wanted her out! I tried to breathe her down, to pace myself, but the urge to push was overwhelming. I don’t even remember a ring of fire, just an intense urge to get her out.
The midwife came in, and when she saw how I was positioned over the bed exclaimed, “Well, that’s one way to do it!” She asked if I wanted to deliver in that position. I nodded. Even if I wanted something else, no way could I move. I found out later she had never helped deliver a baby in that position before. I felt proud to have given her that experience.
When the baby started to crown, in my mind I could see her dark head of hair coming out. I wanted to ask what color her hair was. My son was blonde with blue eyes, but all pregnancy I had been dreaming of my brown haired, brown eyed baby girl. I just couldn’t get the words out. I was screaming as I pushed, gasping in air loudly. Any thought of keeping my voice deep and low was gone from my mind. Finally, I felt her slip out of me.
I instantly sat upright and ripped open the snaps of the hospital gown so it fell off of me, ready to reach down and grab my baby girl. “Don’t sit on her!” everyone said. “How silly,” I thought. I wasn’t going to sit on the baby I had just pushed out! I was much too aware of her for that! “Give her to me!” I kept saying over and over. But they didn’t give her to me, they were too busy suctioning and drying her off. Finally the midwife asked, “So, how do you want to do this?” “Just, pass her between my legs!” I said, while thinking “duh!” And finally they handed my sweet little girl to me. She had brown hair! I held her tightly and they helped me turn over and lay down. Baby Joelle had arrived at 10:05 pm, barely two hours after we arrived at the hospital.
We delayed cord clamping for a while, but the midwife was concerned about the amount of blood. She asked if I wanted a shot of Pitocin, which I declined, and then told me she needed to cut the cord and get the placenta out. I asked what the concern was, why the rush? She simply said she needed to make sure I wasn’t bleeding behind my placenta. (What? Whatever, I had just had a baby, I didn’t care). She put traction on the cord and pushed HARD on my stomach till the placenta gave way. I tried putting baby on my breast to help, but she wasn’t quite interested yet.
After the placenta was born, she assessed me for tears and informed me I would need one stitch for a minor tear. I asked her if it could be skipped. She left it alone for a while to see if it would stop bleeding, but after a few minutes told me that it had started bleeding again when she opened it back up (um, no duh! If you open up a cut again it’s going to bleed!). I begged her to not give me any stitches, that I would just keep my legs together. But she didn’t think much of that idea. I finally caved. She did one stitch, and then said I needed another. The second one hurt so bad. I could feel every tug and pull of the needle. “This is exactly why I didn’t want stitches!” I thought.
The stitches were the only real problem I had with my hospital birth; that, and the fact that my baby wasn’t passed to me right away. But overall, it was about as good of an experience as you can get in a hospital setting. It certainly wasn’t the home birth I had wanted, but it was still a wonderful, empowering experience. Even though the midwife hadn’t even had time to read my birth plan, she still respected me enough to ask for informed consent and respect my wishes. I really appreciated that. Thanks to her, my wonderful husband, my doula, and my mom, our family had grown to four with little drama. And for that, I praise God.
March 30, 2014, 10:05 pm
5lbs, 15.7 oz, 17 in.
Whether you are pregnant with your first child or your third, your birth story is important. Each birth is unique and the day that your baby enters the world is an event that you will never forget. Though it is impossible to completely plan your birth, it is vital to be prepared and know your options. As a labor and delivery nurse, it often strikes me that so many of my patients enter the hospital without any real knowledge or idea of what to expect. Others check in to deliver with a specific plan for how they want childbirth to happen, and cling to this plan even when things do not unfold the way they had hoped. Childbirth requires a delicate balance between planning and surrender. Here are a few great ways to prepare for your ideal childbirth and remain open to a change in your birth plan.
Reading other women’s birth stories is one of the most important ways to prepare for your best birth experience! Even if this is your third pregnancy and you feel that you have it handled, there may have been some parts of your previous births that did not go as planned. Perhaps you ended up with an induction, a long labor, or an unwanted cesarean section. It is important to heal any parts of the experience so that you don’t enter into the next childbirth with fear.
Birth with Balance (plug in site http://birthwithbalance.com) is one of the best websites available to share your birth story or read birth stories of other mothers. If this is your first pregnancy the website provides empowering birth stories that will offer advice and alternatives to keep you up to date. If you have already given birth the site is a great place to share your own birth story in order to reflect, heal, or teach other mothers. Birth with Balance is a place where women teach women through first hand experience. This site was created to give women a forum to share their stories in any language, read the stories of others, and learn more about the incredible, inspiring, and always personal phenomenon of childbirth. This beats a book or a doctor any day.
Take Child Birth Education Classes
There are so many options when it comes to childbirth education classes. The pain of labor is what most women worry about and choose to take a course which will best help them get a grip on this. If you are preparing for a natural childbirth here are short descriptions on a few options.
Lamaze supports natural labor and birth through controlled breathing and progressive relaxation techniques (which the mother should practice daily). This system believes that labor should begin on its own. The woman is encouraged to walk and move around. There should be continuous support with her throughout the process.
Find more info on Lamaze: http://www.lamaze.org/p/cm/ld/fid=1
The Bradley Method
This method encourages the father or partner to be involved and aims for a natural birth with minimal interventions. The class runs up to 12 sessions meeting weekly. Focus is on a well-balanced diet, exercise, taking responsibility during pregnancy and birth (remaining informed), education through healthcare providers and books, and relaxation. Nearly 90% of mothers who use the Bradley Method do not use pain medication in labor.
Find more info on The Bradley Method: http://www.bradleybirth.com
Hypno-Birthing believes that with the absence of fear or tension, labor and delivery can be relatively pain-free. The method doesn’t promise to put you in a trance, but more of a dreamlike state. Anxiety is reduced and confidence is increased through continual application of the technique at home before birth.
Find more info on Hypno-Birthing HERE http://hypnobirthing.com
Birthing From Within
Birthing from Within courses are custom-tailored to what the parents want to learn and discuss. They encourage the release of fear through birth art and journaling.
Find more info on Birthing from Within: http://www.birthingfromwithin.com
Look into Hiring a Doula
It is difficult to research how deep the human need for caring and nurturing is, but during labor it is a priority. Dr. Marshall Klaus, M.D. and Dr. John Kennell, M.D. have done a substantial amount of research on doulas. They found that for first time mothers the presence of a doula shortened labor by an average of two hours and reduced the rate of cesarean section by 50 percent (Northrup 460). It was also noted that doula support could save the healthcare system an average of 2 billion per year by reducing epidurals, fevers, surgery, and interventions. A doula reduces the need for anesthesia by her continuous presence. She will help you plan your best birth and be at your side even if the plan changes.
I am totally supportive of women writing, talking about, and sharing their birth stories; in fact I encourage it. Telling stories helps us discover the meaning in our experiences and offers possible explanations for what we struggle to understand. Our hope, when we tell our stories is that we will feel less alone, more understood.
The telling of the story is as vital as the story itself but birth stories have a way of being as harmful as they could be healing when told to the wrong person.
Be mindful if the listener is still pregnant and desperately seeking validation for her fear of the unknown, her anxiety about giving birth, and her need for reassurance. Not too long ago, the teller was the listener and this knowledge should deepen her understanding to the absolute vulnerability that the listener feels. But the teller now has personal experience of all the things she feared deeply. Her questions about birth have been answered and she has joined the world of women who have a birth story to tell.
She openly shares her most intimate moments and thoughts. She resists holding anything back, and unapologetically shares details of her birth with no thought to sugar coating the things she most deeply worried about during pregnancy.
The listener sits wide eyed and wondrous. She takes everything she hears and adds it to her own personal fears and anxieties about her pending birth. Perhaps the teller experienced the exact thing that she most fears. This validates her fear. The details, the explanation, the reasons are irrelevant. All she is thinking is, “It happened to her – it could happen to me.” The damage is done.
Storytelling creates a bridge between teller and listener across which authentic communication can take place. It is within this intimacy that the 'healing' or 'therapeutic' aspects of the story lies. However, it is only healing if she is telling it to someone who can be truly empathic to her story.
All birth stories hold elements of emotions and reactions intimately and intricately linked with the tellers own perception of how she wanted her birth to be and how it actually was. The birth story is the weaving together of the dream and the reality. And the further the reality was from the dream, the more questions there are. The story becomes the vehicle for healing, validation, and empathic response.
It is vital that the listener is able to bear witness to your vulnerability. It is vital that the listener is able to help you make sense of what happened versus what you wanted to happen. Even if everything went exactly as you wished, there is a need to talk about it, to share the joy, the happiness, and the wonder of that moment. We don’t like the idea of being the only one who ever felt this way, so sharing our stories comes from a place of wanting to find “our people.” They are the ones who “get it” because they have been there.
Every time you tell your story and someone does not just listen but hears and truly cares about what you are saying, where it comes from, how it has affected you, changed you, altered you, made you question or helped you understand, you turn off the body’s stress response and turn on your body’s innate self-repair mechanisms.
So find someone to tell your story to. Someone you feel comfortable enough with to strip off your masks and be unapologetically you. Someone who will sit quietly and listen as you relive every moment of your birth and in doing so help you to process the hugeness of it.
As author and storyteller Diane Rooks explains in her article Healing Stories : “Healing stories can change the way we see our lives and the world. Using metaphor and imagery, stories offer healing and growth to everyone--those who tell them and those who listen. They connect us to each other and help us find meaning as we imagine new possibilities and find hope.”
So if you are the teller and your listener is still pregnant, take a moment to consider if your story will be healing or harmful. Take a moment to consider how you would have felt if you heard your story while you were still pregnant.
Since time immemorial, stories invite our imaginations and hearts to stretch over the void to reach out to one another and to realize what it is to be human. Make sure that your story does that.
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