Alyssa writes this story about her two midwife-assisted hospital births, and just how difficult it was to tear herself away from mopping the floors in the throes of labor:
I’ve been blessed to have two wonderful birth experiences, each of them very different. My son’s birth was far from a bad experience. At the time I thought it was just about perfect. My water spontaneously broke and labor did not progress. Taking the advice of my midwife I was given Pitocin and 12 hours later opted for an epidural. After 17 hours of labor (only 15-20 minutes of pushing) my son arrived. Following this experience I told others emphatically, “Take the epidural!”.
Two years later we conceived our second child. Within those two years I had decided that I wanted this child’s birth to be different. I did not want to labor in the hospital. I really did not want to be given Pitocin again, I didn’t want an IV, I wanted my baby put on my bare chest. I wanted to find the strength to go through this laboring experience naturally, to fully connect to my body and the process. I wanted to be in the comfort of my own home; my husband, however, was not to be convinced.
We decided on another midwife-coached birth in hospital and I had a wonderful pregnancy. I exercised four times a week, ate well, and did all I could to keep my body healthy and happy. We found out we were going to have a daughter, and her guess date was June 21st 2012, a mere two days after our son’s third birthday. The 21st came and went. The morning of the 22nd I begged my midwife to strip my membranes hoping it would help start my labor. At the office I was already 5cm dilated, 75% effaced, and the baby was at zero station. I should have known right then that this wasn’t going to be a long labor.
I had mild contractions following the procedure but nothing of consequence. At 5pm that night I started to feel like the contractions were becoming more regular. I really didn’t believe I was in labor so I continued about my normal business and just gave my husband a heads up that labor might have started. I had been having a ton of Braxton Hicks contractions over the past three weeks: they would be steady at eight minutes apart for an hour before disappearing. But on the night of the 22nd, my contractions went from eight minutes apart to five over the course of an hour. They were becoming stronger, and while definitely not painful, just more present.
By 6:30pm we called the midwife. She suggested that I probably wasn’t in labor and that it was a result of having my membranes stripped. I laid down for half an hour and drank some water. Instead of slowing down, my contractions moved to 3-4 minutes apart. We called my in-laws to pick up our son and I began to do my routine of cleaning the house before I leave (something that drives my husband nuts!). I was washing up dishes and getting ready to mop my floors when my husband forced me to leave the house. By now the contractions were becoming stronger and more uncomfortable. All I could do was breathe through them.
I may have forgotten to mention – I live an hour away from the hospital. Yes, an hour! We got in the car for the long trip. Not even halfway through, my contractions had sped up to two minutes apart and were continuing to get more uncomfortable. It wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated, and we arrived at the hospital at 8:45pm.
The midwife came in to check on me and see if I was actually in labor. I was 6cm dilated and completely effaced. She broke my water. After this things went from 0-60. I immediately progressed to 7cm. I looked at my sisters and husband and asked why on earth I wanted to do this naturally. They had no reply and I have to admit I asked for, gasp an epidural. It wasn’t that the pain was too much to bare – it was that I had truly forgotten why I wanted to do this without medication. Thankfully, my body and heart remembered why and had other plans.
During this part of my labor I was sitting vertically in bed rocking and moaning with each contraction. In hindsight I realize that 10 minutes after my water was broken I had to push. I was just unable to believe that what I was feeling was the need to push; I had just arrived at the hospital! The nurse was unable to place an IV. It was then I realized I was going to be doing this naturally. I can vividly remember my internal dialogue, I can’t do this! Alyssa….you are an idiot. You can do this and you do not have a choice.
I looked up at my husband, who was sitting at the foot of the bed (when I am in pain I want to be left alone, not spoken to and definitely not touched) and said, “ I HAVE to push.” This feeling was beyond just pressure and far beyond a slight need to bare down. There was an incredible urgency behind it. I could hear in the nurse’s voice that she didn’t believe me. She nonchalantly suggested we wait for the midwife to come back in to check on me. At that moment the midwife walked through the door. I can still remember the shocked look on her face as she lifted up my hospital gown. As my husband told me later, all you could see was the baby’s head.
Total chaos ensued. Nothing was done. Paper work hadn’t been done, the warmer wasn’t in the room, NOTHING! The midwife rushed to get her gloves on. My husband moved to the side to help me hold my legs up (no stirrups, thank God!). I do not even remember being told to push – all I know is I did and oh my there was the ring of fire… Something more intense then I could ever imagine. I definitely was screaming through the two pushes I gave. It wasn’t an out-of-control scream of pain but rather the kind of scream a weight-lifter might give when pushing himself/herself to the limit (I had to check with my sisters. They say this just about describes it).
Two pushes and oh what a relief! Her head was out! Quickly the rest of her came and she was screaming at the top of her lungs which, I should note, are quite loud. They placed her right on my bare chest and she immediately began to suck furiously at her hands. I was in such shock. My beautiful daughter Brynn Elise had arrived. I could not process what had just happened. I looked at her in amazement. She was here. I did it. It was 9:48pm. After only five hours of labor, one hour and three minutes after we had arrived at the hospital, and only 20-30 minutes after my water was broken, my daughter was born. Incredible.
I did end up having a tear on my inner labia and the midwife warned me that they probably weren’t going to be able to numb me effectively there. I felt every gosh darn stitch (this was definitely the worst part of my experience). I just kept squeezing my husband’s hand and staring at my daughter. I was able to keep her on me during the repair, which was so unlike my first birth, when my son was whisked away shortly after he was born. Brynn Elise stayed on my chest until the repair was done and then I nursed her. She didn’t have her measurements taken until about an hour after she was born. It was so amazing to just be able to hold my baby for as long as I wanted without pressure to hurry up and have her measured and such. She weighed in at a small 6lbs 13oz and 20.5 inches long.
It took me a good week to wrap my head around Brynn’s delivery. It all happened so incredibly fast that I was truly unable to grasp all that had occurred. As I reflect on this birth experience I find such strength and power within myself. I proved, to myself, that I could indeed have a natural birth. I am strong enough. For me this was an incredible triumph and moment of empowerment that I will carry with me for all of my life. I love hearing the pride in my husband’s voice as he tells people, “She did it naturally, without even a Tylenol!” Although the births of my two children were so different, I wouldn’t wish either of them to be any different than what they were. I know that both of my children’s births were births without fear.