My first two pregnancies and births were pretty heavy with medical intervention. Both were inductions, with pitocin. With my first, I was clueless. With my second, I was a bit more informed, but not very well supported. With both, I ended up with epidurals. I would not say they were bad births, or traumatic, or anything of the sort, but I knew I wanted something different when I finally had another child.
When I found out I was pregnant with my third child, I was thrilled. This time around, I knew more. I was prepared for more. I had been reading Ina May Gaskin’s books, researching online, joining natural birthing groups and following birth blogs. I really wanted a home birth, possibly a water birth. I wanted a beautiful, gentle entrance into this world for my last baby. We began by seeing the same team of midwives that I saw when I was expecting my last child, and we prayed fervently for a little girl to bless our boy-filled home.
At 5 weeks along, I started gushing blood. I was absolutely terrified. We rushed to the hospital, where after lots of waiting and testing, my husband and I were informed that I had experienced a partial placental abruption. We were told that we would likely lose the baby that we were so excited for.
We went home heartbroken and expecting the worst. But, day by day, our baby hung on and stuck with us. We went in for repeated ultrasounds and blood tests to confirm that the pregnancy was viable and baby was still here with us. Every time we heard the heartbeat, or saw movement on a screen, or got blood work back with huge hormone counts, our hearts soared and we cried with relief.
Then at 15 weeks, I started bleeding again, heavier this time. Same routine at the hospital, same diagnosis. Same empathetic words about the possibility of losing our little baby. Suggestions of bed rest and lots of fluids, avoiding anything that could induce contractions, etc…
But still, our baby stayed with us. My husband and I would speak to my growing belly, telling the baby to just hang in there, that life out here is worth it, that we had so much love out here, just waiting…We learned that my due date was on St. Patrick’s day, and since we are both Irish, we took it as a sign of luck. I began wearing a four-leaf clover pendant for more luck, and to remind me of our sweet baby.
My belly grew, and grew, and grew. The pregnancy was really rough on me physically. I was frequently nauseous, in pain almost constantly, and exhausted all the time. Whenever baby moved, it felt like my stomach would literally tear open. I had a muscle separation in my abdomen that was just big enough for tiny feet and hands to slide into, and the pain behind my belly button felt like a dagger….but every time I complained, I tried to remind myself how lucky I was to have that little baby in there, stretching my body to it’s limits and thriving in my womb.
The possibility of a home birth was no longer an option, with the issues we were facing. But our determination to have a natural birth grew. I learned that the pitocin I had been given during my last labor had caused my uterus to hyper-contract, and that was why the pain was so intense and constant, and happened so quickly. I learned that pitocin had the potential to cause my placenta to tear all the way off the uterine wall during labor if this happens. I also learned that the epidural could possibly slow labor down enough that some doctors consider the use of pitocin necessary.
NO WAY was I going to allow pitocin to enter my body. My husband and I wrote up a birth plan, very explicit about NO unnecessary interventions, only natural pain relief, and lots of support from him. I had total faith in his ability to handle supporting me. We also hired a doula, for extra support and advocacy during labor.
My due date crept closer and closer. The midwives and perinatal specialists were surprised that I even went close to full term. We had been prepared for a possible premature baby, based on the complications we had. They were also concerned about possible intrauterine growth restriction because of the damaged placenta, although she felt plenty big to me! I bought a couple preemie outfits, just in case.
The Saturday before my due date, I spent the entire day with horrid back pain. I chalked it up to a game of bowling the night before, but by 9 pm that night, I knew I was wrong. I was definitely in labor. I thought. Maybe… but I had a hard time believing it could be real. But I was definitely uncomfortable, so since we intended to spend as much of my labor as possible at home, we bunkered down, broke out the Jack Johnson, dimmed the lights, and tried to relax. My oldest son timed my contractions for me and we called my mom to let her know what was going on. The contractions began getting really intense around 11 pm, so I decided to take a bath. Unfortunately, that was about the time the water heater decided to call it quits on us. That being my main source of pain relief, I was a bit unsure about what to do with myself.
My contractions began getting more intense and closer. I decided it was time to go to the hospital, since we were 45 minutes away, and I tend to have precipitous labor. I called my doula to meet us there, and asked my mom to go ahead and head over to watch the boys.
We arrived just at midnight. After spending hours waiting in my room, being monitored and questioned by the nurse, the midwife finally came in and checked me and stated that I was only about 3cm dilated. I explained that I usually have my babies pretty fast, and that I dilate pretty much all at once. She treated me like I was just an ignorant, impatient pregnant woman and didn’t know what I was talking about. She suggested we spend a little time trying to get labor progressing , since we live so far away from the hospital, and stated that if I didn’t have baby that night, that I could schedule an induction for the following Monday. I was horrified that she would even suggest that, since I was barely even 39 weeks, and it was explicitly clear in my birth plan that I wanted no inductions of any sort!
As it just so happened, this midwife had attended a friend’s birth just the month before. My friend had many issues with the midwife, but particularly when she decided to yank on the umbilical cord to try and rush the delivery of the placenta. My friend almost died from complications caused by this one simple, but unnecessary act, an act that my friend SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED not be performed.
Since I knew she had a history of not respecting women’s wishes regarding interventions, I realized right away that she was not going to be on my side during my labor and birth. I was immediately stressed out and anxious, and my contractions mellowed out and spaced back apart on the spot. I was very disappointed. We decided to go walking to relax and try to get things going again, but not much was happening. I felt as if my body had just gone into hibernation or something.
Before she went home for the day, the midwife checked me one more time. It was about 7 a.m. I had barely ‘progressed’ at all (according to her). She was ready to discharge me, so we packed up and headed home. On our way down to the ground floor, I had a contraction that had me gripping the rails in the elevator car. We exited and rounded the corner towards the emergency room entrance, where we had parked. My husband ran ahead to bring the car around while my doula waited with me. As soon as he walked out the doors, a contraction hit me that dropped me to my knees. I grasped for something to hold, kind of flailing around for a minute. I don’t know how my husband knew, but all of a sudden, there he was, standing in front of me. He hadn’t even made it to the car when he felt the urge to come back in. I said “We are not leaving yet”.
We turned around and made our way back up to the maternity ward. I informed the nurses that, no, I would not be leaving after all, that I think maybe I ought to stay for a bit. We were put back in the same room as before, and I was really beginning to get uncomfortable again.
There was a new midwife on call, and she agreed. She came in to see me, and I was so immediately relieved that it was a midwife that I had always really liked.
Since I was GBS positive, I needed antibiotics before labor ( I had agreed to this intervention only). Two nurses got to work on my arm, but they seemed to be taking FOREVER. Something was wrong with IV equipment or something, I didn’t really pay attention, I was focusing too much on just trying to be patient, and trying to work through contractions while remaining still and in the bed. Finally I had had enough and said I was getting in the tub. They detached the IV and left the hep lock in so I could move about freely, and since the drip wasn’t working correctly anyways. In hind sight, I really should have mentioned that I knew this baby was going to be here before the antibiotics had had their full run, anyhow, but I was only focused on getting into that tub…
As soon as I slid into the water, I knew we were in it for good. Within moments, I was on my hands and knees, I was screaming and crying, begging for relief. I was in transition. But how, when I was barely even dilated just a few moments before? I started to feel the urge to push, and felt my bag of water pop under the waves I was making with my constant rocking and swaying. The nurses and the new midwife on call were trying to get me to go back to my room, where they were preparing a birthing pool for me. (The tub room was too small for birth, it was supposed to be just for labor). I looked up to see the midwife and felt such gratitude that it was one of the midwives that I actually really clicked with. So I decided to be cooperative and listen to her and get out of the tub to make my way back to my room.
Climbing out of that tub was (almost) the hardest thing I have ever done. Leaving the warm, comfortable water was NOT what I wanted. I finally managed to get out, and, wrapped in a small towel, pretty much naked, dripping wet, and with my baby crowning, I waddled as fast as I could down the hall. I barely made it to the bed before I was pushing again, I had no control over it, my body had taken over and was doing its job to bring my baby out. The midwife barely had time to put on gloves, and the bed was never even broken down to assist with birthing. The birthing pool was only halfway full, and there was a gaggle of awe-struck nurses standing there with their jaws dropped, unsure of whether they should keep setting up the pool, or disassemble, or what.
I writhed in pain on the bed, I begged and pleaded for it to stop. It was all happening so fast for me; I couldn’t get a grip on it. Somebody reclined the bed, and I remember screaming, “NO! Why are you doing that?!?” But it was too late to do anything about it at that point. I clung to my husband’s arm like a terrified two-year-old. He held me and said all the right things, encouraged me and told me how strong I was. Moments later, as I screamed the most primal sounds from my body, I pushed my baby into the world. My beautiful, amazing, perfect daughter, Violet Fiona Rose, was born at 8:16 a.m, with almost no hair ( lol), weighing 8lbs, 7oz, just like her eldest brother. ( I realized, afterwards, that my labor picked back up again at almost the exact moment that the previous ( and not-so-cared-for) midwife had gone off duty, and the new midwife arrived. It was like my body knew when the other one had left, and started back up again when the ‘safe’ one was there to assist).
Violet developed an infection, presumably from the GBS, since we were not able to receive the full dose of antibiotics during labor. She was administered antibiotics through and IV and by injection for the next several days. I was discharged, but allowed to stay in a room as a ‘boarding mom’, which I am so very grateful for. I could not imagine having to leave her; after all we had been through waiting for her arrival. We got to come home, together, about a week later.
My daughter is now a gorgeous, healthy 6 month old. We revel in her perfection every day, and our gratitude for the gift we have been given just grows and grows as she does.