This is the first time I have written this down. I’m sure it will be emotional, even though you will only get the very shortened version of my hospital birth experience.
I had had a fairly normal pregnancy with Ethan. Nothing out of the ordinary until around 36 weeks when my blood pressure went up suddenly. I was from then on monitored twice a week plus one doctors appointment a week. Thankfully, my blood pressure gave me no serious problems. It went down to an okay range and stayed there. While I was being monitored for Pre-E, my belly was found to be measuring small. I was now 38 weeks pregnant and measuring at 35. My obstetrician decided to do an ultrasound to determine the approximate size of my baby. I did not know at the time the inaccuracy of using ultrasound to predict size, so I consented.
A week later at my regular appointment, I was informed that the ultrasound had concluded that my baby was 3-3.5 lbs and that my placenta was starving him. We would be inducing that night. I did not know any better so at 39 weeks and 3 days, I took my bags and my fear up to Labor and Delivery to be induced.
I was immediately put into a gown and hooked up to monitors and an IV. Somebody came and took my blood. At around 6 pm I was administered my first dose of cytotec. I am going to take a little detour here. Nobody told me that cytotec is an off label drug and that the drug company specifically states on the FRONT label of the package not to use on pregnant women or women in labor. It can cause a whole host of problems ranging from hyper stimulation of the uterus to uterine rupture. I was told that it was used to induce labor. They made me believe that this was a drug MADE to induce labor. When I found this out later, I began to feel lied to and violated by my care providers. It was made even worse when I discovered that there is a drug called cervadil that is specifically made to dilate the cervix and that cytotec is used because it is cheaper option.
Going back to my birth story. Contractions came on, and came on strong, around 8 pm. My husband was in the room with my but was no help at all, sleeping on the couch. I was feeling full on pitocin contractions, and I was not doing well. I was not allowed to get off of the monitors since the drugs can cause distress in the baby. I had not wanted an epidural but almost immediately started begging for one. The nurse came in to check my cervix 2 hours later and told me I was still closed, no progress. I started to cry. Shortly after, I began to vomit. My contractions were lasting 1 minute long and I was having 3 in a row with no break. After the 3, I would have less than a 2 minute break in between.
What was this? Nothing in any of the information I had read had said anything about this. I was fully versed in the ‘stages’ of labor and I knew this was not one of them, nor was it normal. Around 6 hours later another nurse came to check me. She kept looking at me like I was being overly dramatic and she wasn’t quiet about the fact that she thought I was. She kept telling me I ‘had’ to let her check me and I was only going to hurt my baby if I didn’t. I was barely coherent at this point from the pain of the hyperstimulation of the uterus that I was experiencing (more on this later!)
Finally, I gave up. I gave up and let her check my cervix. It hurt so bad and I couldn’t figure out why because I wasn’t having a contraction. After she removed her hand and told me I was still closed, I noticed that she had left all 4 of her gaudy over-sized rings on her fingers when she was checking my cervix. She made me feel less than human.
Around 8:30 am the next morning after 12.5 hours of the 3 in a row contractions and a cervix still closed, I started to hyperventilate and black out. At this point, they decided to give me an epidural. I got my relief at 8:45am. I immediately fell asleep. At around 9:30 am I woke up and felt an extreme pressure. I yelled to my husband to get the nurse because my baby was going to ‘fall out’. He was in the middle of eating a cheeseburger and told me in a minute. I couldn’t reach my call button so I yelled for her. When she came in and checked me, my son was about to crown. She ran out of the room and all of the sudden 20 people run in. The doctor barely made it.
At 9:43 am on May 5, 2007 my baby boy came into the world. 6lbs 5oz, 21 inches long and beautiful. My Ethan Bryce. They chopped his cord and whisked him away. I kept yelling, ‘Where is my baby?!’ and ‘Bring me my baby!’ but they all ignored me. When I finally got to meet him 20 minutes later, nobody could explain to me why he had been taken away. He was perfect.
I was thoroughly traumatized from this birth event. The nurses had let me down. I felt lied to, violated and sick about what had happened to me. They knew I had hyper stimulation of the uterus and let me suffer for 12.5 hours. They KNEW. My husband had let me down, he was not there for me. When I needed him, he said he was tired. When I hadn’t eaten in 24 hours, he ate in front of me. They took my baby from me and could not tell me why. 18 months later when we decided to have another baby, I was terrified and angry. Mostly angry. Everybody would say to me, ‘You have a healthy baby, you should be happy.’ I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t happy. I felt like I was being weak and ungrateful. So I began to research.
I researched everything. Everything I could find. I found other moms like me who were traumatized and I realized I wasn’t weak and what happened to me was NOT okay! I found that if I could find my courage, I could have a baby on my own… without anyone else trying to interfere. It took me 2 years to get pregnant with our daughter and by the time I was, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be free and birth my baby freely. I was scared but I was ready.
I started out my care at the Naval Hospital that is on the base that we live. When I refused the vaginal exam at my first appointment, the nurse was so mean to me that she made me cry. But I was strong from so many years of anger and the knowledge that I had gained. Around 20 weeks I found out about a free standing birthing center that my insurance covered 100%. Around 26 weeks, I switched my care fully to the birthing center and that decision changed my life. The midwives there were so kind to me. They respected my decisions. They treated me like a person. My doula had done births there before and assured me that they were hands off during birth.
I’ll let you into my head at this point. I was still afraid. I did not trust anyone. The midwives had done nothing to make me not trust them but I was so traumatized from my previous birth that I couldn’t let it go. I didn’t trust them to advocate for me when I was going to be at my most vulnerable because the people I trusted before violated me. They scarred me for life. My spirit was scarred. I was scarred as a woman. I had not yet learned that scars aren’t always a bad thing. They can remind us that we have made mistakes in the past but the future is unwritten; blank and waiting for us to weave beautiful stories and experiences into an afghan of knowledge and hope for those who look upon it after we are gone.
My doula, Amanda, doubled as my Hypnobirthing instructor. Hypnobirthing was something I chose to do because I believed in the power of my own mind to get me through labor. I didn’t think I needed anyone but myself. Amanda was the only person I trusted and I do not know what I would have done without her. She calmed my fears and when I thought of her, I knew she would be the one to stand up for me which is what I desperately needed. When I looked into her eyes, I could tell that she was all in for ME. Just me. I had all these fears. Fear that my body wouldn’t go into labor on its own, fear that people I trusted would let me down, fear that my husband wouldn’t be there for me and that I would hate him for it. Strangely enough though, never fear of pain.
My due date came and went. 3 days after, on August 3 at night I began to feel contractions. Not strong ones and I could sleep through them. When I woke up on the morning of the 4th, they were semi regular. They would go at intervals of 5 minutes for an hour, 7 minutes for an hour, 2 minutes for an hour and so on. They were nothing I couldn’t handle so I went to walk around Babies R Us with my mother and my sister. I even drove. By the end of the day I was getting frustrated that the contractions would not even out and put me into active labor.
At 11 pm I laid down to try and get some sleep. I dozed a few times but was too anxious to actually sleep. Around 1 am I got into the tub because I was becoming more and more uncomfortable. I called my husband upstairs at around 1:30 am to sit with me. My contractions were now 5 minutes apart. I decided to get out of the tub and lie down in bed. My baby started to move and make the contractions more painful, so I got onto all fours with my butt in the air which helped a ton.
I stayed like this for another hour and at around 2:30 am my doula showed up. She was so amazing, we talked and she reminded me to keep fluids and use the restroom. I told my husband, I feel like these contractions should hurt, they should feel bad, maybe they’re not doing anything. Amanda assured me that they were. At this point I was still fine and pretty comfortable, just breathing through my surges.
At about 4:20 am, something changed. The contraction just felt different. I told Amanda, we need to go to the birthing center NOW! When I got up, my teeth started to chatter. We walked downstairs and when I stopped for my surge my legs started to shake. I was transitioning and the hormone surges were making me shake.
We got into the car at 4:30 am and arrived at the birthing center at 5:30 am. The midwife checked my cervix (the first time my entire pregnancy that anyone saw or touched my vagina) and I was 8! That gave me so much hope. I immediately got into the water. The next few hours are sort of a blur to me. At one point I vomited and the midwife told me that it was good and it would help me dilate. I was breathing through my contractions and rocking back and forth to help ease the pressure. My husband was amazing the whole time!! I couldn’t have done it without him and I believe this restored a piece of our marriage that had been broken before.
After a few hours, the midwife checked me again. At this point I had (or my body had) been pushing for a little while. She informed me that I had a lip of cervix over the baby’s head and that she needed to move it away so the baby could come down. After she moved it, I started to feel my baby move down into my pelvic area. I reached up and felt her water bag, still in tact, and through it I could feel her head. I knew I could push her out right then but I didn’t. I felt like I should wait.
After a little while of waiting and a few small pushes, my body started pushing for me! I couldn’t control it, it was the strangest feeling. A few pushes later, her head came out (still in the bag). At this point I remember yelling GET HER OUT GET HER OUT! Even though I had planned on catching her myself. The midwife broke the water bag around her head, helped her shoulders out so I could grab her and I delivered my baby girl, Elaina J., at 8:24 am.
She didn’t cry right away, she just kept looking at me and blinking her eyes. I’ll never forget that. She was trying to clear her throat but wasn’t in a hurry. We started to rub her back to get out the extra fluid and she let out a few coughs and a tiny cry. So different from the harsh treatment babies receive in the hospital! After about 10 minutes we got out of the tub and moved to the bed so I could deliver the placenta. Man, I was mad I had to deliver the placenta, I was ready to be DONE!! Baby girl latched on like a piranha and nursed the whole time. We waited to cut her cord for about 2 hours. In those 2 hours she pooped 4 times!
When the midwives finally got a chance to check her out and weigh her, they had to get a new scale just to check: 9lbs 13oz! The midwife looked at me and said “Honey, if we would have weighed her right when she came out like a hospital does, she wold have been over 10 lbs!! Good job!” Now we knew why my body told me to wait and not push… I would have torn if I pushed her out too fast. We also knew why I was only comfortable on my knees…this position can help a large baby into the pelvic area. I listened to my body and it was right. As it was, I delivered a 10 lb baby easily and with no tearing! A woman’s body is such an amazing thing!
Since I’ve already written 3 pages, I’ll bring this to a close. I was traumatized and I didn’t trust anyone… but I trusted myself and I trusted my body. My second birth was so healing to me. I wasn’t weak and I wasn’t wrong in feeling like my body and my womanhood had been violated. I listened to my heart and it led me down a path that changed my life. I am so proud of myself and my husband for doing this together. I am proud that I listened to my body and my instincts ONLY. I am proud that I now feel more like a woman than ever because I stood up for myself and my baby.
As I sit here with tears in my eyes, I only hope that someone will take away from this that she is strong and she is beautiful. That she CAN do it and she DESERVES to. That I, and all the other women who believe in birth, are there in spirit cradling her and her baby, helping them on their journey. THEIR journey. I want all you ladies to know that you are all amazing and you can do things you never thought you could if you put your whole self into it. You are beautiful, you are smart and you are strong. You were made to be strong and your body was made to birth your baby. I believe in you. Don’t forget it.