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When Natural Labour Isn’t Ideal

When Natural Labour Isn’t Ideal

By Anonymous

This is a birth story about the last time I brought a baby earthside. This is also the story of something I’ve learned along the way bringing my first two sweet miracles into the world. In order for this story to make sense, I’ve got to explain what led up to it. Really, this is my three birth stories in two parts. Warning: some details may be a case of TMI for some people. Further, this is my story. By writing my story I am not saying that my experience is, or should be, the same experience as anyone else who has been through the same things I have been through. Maybe my experience will help someone, maybe it won’t. At the end of the day, I am recounting things as they’ve happened to me.

Part One:

I was sexually abused when I was very very very small. Besides working through a lot of mental/emotional issues that were wired into my developing brain, I also ended up with some physical baggage. My husband is a sweet and patient man of character.  He taught me that a man could love me without ever wanting to take something from me or use me. We shared our first kiss in front of the 100-ish people at our wedding. After we got married though sex eventually became something I feared. Even though I wanted to share intimacy with my man, my body made doing so a painful experience. I asked my doctor for a referral to a gynecologist.

When I saw the gyno I explained what was happening and that I was previously abused. When she examined me physically as soon as she touched the entrance to my vagina all my muscles tensed up and seized. She told that unfortunately she sees this regularly and that I wasn’t as bad off as some women who will shrink to the size of a test tube. She explained that muscle has memory. That even in cases of people abused when they are very small who may have no actual memories of the abuse their muscles can still remember it. She prescribed devices made of wax that would slowly stretch my muscles out and train them to not react to the pressure of penetration. We opted to use lots of prayer and slowly stretch things out with my husband. Again, he is a patient, patient man and for that I am very thankful. It took time, but eventually we worked things through and sex wasn’t painful anymore.

We were excited when we found out we were expecting our first little one. I believed strongly that natural labour was the best way to go if at all possible, and I thought I was pretty informed. We took prenatal classes together, toured our local hospital, talked about our hopes for labour and delivery and overall felt that we understood as best we could what we would prefer our labour to look like. I wrote up a “Birth We Would Like to Try Do” list. We didn’t want a set in stone idea of how things “had to” go as that seemed to be the most common scenario for everything to go wrong. We were fortunate to have a Doctor we had a really great rapport with who would thoroughly answer all our questions and was quite hands off overall. He did follow certain policies he was bound to though and I was never told I could simply say “No.”

Thus, as I approached the magical 10 days past my “due date” when he said that was the time we induce as the placenta starts to deteriorate I walked into an induction. I had been at about 3 cm for a week. He explained that he would essentially be using a tampon of hormones that would help my cervix to finish thinning and ripening and if things got too intense the beauty of this method was he could just pull the thing out. What I didn’t know was that however much hormone my body had absorbed still had to be worked out in my system once he took the insert out. Suffice to say, after progressing throughout the day and making it to nearly 8cm I ended up being steamrolled by continuous contractions. One would start before the last one ended. Then to boot, when I was next checked I had gone backwards in dilation by multiple centimetres. Our doctor was concerned that my contractions, while being pretty continuous and somewhat painful, were not being very effective in moving baby down. He said he would be starting oxytocin shortly to help them be more effective.

At this point my husband and I had a meeting. If my body was reacting to the level of pain (which wasn’t incredibly terrible) I was in by clamping down and closing up (knowing my previous history with all the muscles down there we figured that’s what was happening) then how would kicking things up a notch not lead to a disaster and possibly even an emergency caesarean? We made the decision that before any oxytocin got anywhere near me I would have an epidural (I’d had nothing up to this point). We decided that while we wanted to remain drug free, more than that we wanted to avoid a preventable caesarean. I ended up getting the epidural, my body was able to relax, and only a few hours later I pushed out the miracle that would turn me into a mother.

In the days and weeks that followed I felt let down that I hadn’t gotten the natural drug free birth I believed would have been most ideal. While I knew we needed to make a decision, and believed we had made the right one, I also regretting not preparing waaaaayy better for dealing with the actual pain of labour. Really, I’d had no clue what I was doing. I was trying to tell my husband to press here or there or massage this or that, while hoping I was guessing right and often I was totally wrong. Doing his utter best to support me I ended up feeling alone and abandoned by him when I needed him most. I thought that perhaps if we had been better prepared and able to cope better we wouldn’t have needed the epidural. That I would have been able to experience all that I had read about when women described feeling empowered and strong etc. when they birthed their babies without any interventions. I did more research and decided that next time things would be different.

Jumping to pregnancy number two. We hired a doula (If you are thinking about getting a doula but aren’t sure if you should bother with the expense, get the doula. Just do it!), I took a much more thorough prenatal class, and I watched episodes of “One born every minute”. I reminded myself over and over that women give birth every day and I could too; that I already had. My husband and I were now aware that my body might react unfavourably if I wasn’t coping well and were committed to making sure I was well supported and didn’t feel abandoned or alone in the delivery room. My husband had started a new job over 1100 km away but was due home a couple weeks before my “due date”. Given that I went post dates the last time and other women in my family have done the same, we were confidant he would be there before baby came.

One week before my husband was due home I had bright red show. I immediately saw my doctor who confirmed I was in early labour. I cried, then called my husband and told him I would appreciate if he was with me for this. He threw his things in the car and started driving. I called my doula and let her know I’d be phoning sometime in the next while, and I went about my day. I had so much confidence that time that I didn’t have with my first baby. Confidence that I had a team to support me, confidence that my body could do this as I’d done it before. Confidence that we had a better plan in place. Confidence in my ability to recover well afterwards. Just a lot more confidence. At 1:00 am my water broke while I was lying in bed. My sister came to drive me to the hospital. We arrived at the hospital I would deliver at by 3:00am and met my doula there. She hooked me up to a tens machine with a boost button (which was awesome), I put on the gown I had sewn, and we laboured. My husband arrived at 4:00am following his 12.5 hour drive. I knelt facing the raised head of the bed and with each contraction my husband and sister leaned into my hips and my doula pressed my lower back.

Then I hit a point where I felt like I’d had enough and said I didn’t need to be a hero and could certainly have an epidural. The doctor (same one as my first baby) turned to my sister and said “We’re about to start pushing. They always say that when we’re about to start pushing.” And sure enough, I was complete and in fifteen minutes or so of pushing out came my second miracle. While holding my newborn baby and saying over and over “I did it” in a somewhat dazed and surprised head space, I remember two things very clearly. 1) I did not feel any rush of accomplishment, power, or realization of how strong and amazing my body was. I did not experience any sort of joy, euphora, or otherwise “birth high” sort of feelings, 2) I was overwhelmingly relieved that it was all over. I didn’t realize at the time how deeply upsetting this labour was to me. I was soon caring for a newborn (with undiagnosed silent reflux; this was very challenging) and an energetic toddler and had a number of other things going on that prevented me from really taking the time to process everything through. I was, however, terrified of ever being pregnant again. I had never had panic attacks up to that point.  Just the thought of ever conceiving again would lead to a minor panic attack.

Fast forward through an awesome experience that led me to being willing to try again (we have always wanted a big family) and we were pregnant again. My second born’ was diagnosed with silent reflux and was being treated with appropriate medication for his condition and was also finally sleeping through the night. I had both the time and mental clarity to think about and process my previous labour.  As I looked back on it in I realized fully just how traumatizing that delivery was which was somewhat puzzling to me. I had achieved my ideal drug free labour. I had been awesomely supported and birthed in a quiet room with nobody telling me how to push or what to do. On a scale of one to ten I would say the pain never got past a 5-6. My husband made it in time and my body didn’t go backwards. I had gotten everything I had hoped for and yet, I felt overwhelmingly traumatized. I thought about and talked through everything with my husband trying to figure out why I was so incredibly upset by such an ideal labour. Trying to figure out why I hadn’t experienced any of the euphoria I’ve heard described, or even the level of “birth high” I felt after my first baby.

And then one night I stumbled across it. With my first labour, once I had the epidural I was no longer dealing with pain in areas of my body where I had experienced trauma as a small child. I could feel all the pressure of that baby being born, but nothing hurt down there. With my second, I could feel all the pain and just had to cope with it. It didn’t matter that I coped well, it didn’t matter that the pain was never as enormous as I thought it would get. While talking and processing what came out was “I just felt so violated! I was being subjected to pain in the most personal parts of my body and I couldn’t do anything but hold on until it was over!” and then I burst into tears. That feeling of being violated and just coping until it was done was buried somewhere deep in my being and having a completely natural labour with my second baby had fully brought it to the surface.

After that chat I became much more aware that labour itself could dig up some pretty deep wounds in me. So, we prepared more. We read more, we planned more. We had moved since our last delivery and were blessed to get on with a midwife who was terrific. We put together a great birth support team. And we waited. I was now fully aware that I was free to decline doing anything I didn’t want to do during my pregnancy/delivery. Thus as 10 days “post dates” I signed a form that I do not consent to be induced and we continued to wait for baby to be ready to meet us.

That story coming finally…

Part Two:

I was 43 weeks + 1 day. My husband and I had chatted and decided that we weren’t comfortable going much past 43 weeks and so the previous few days I had been using a breast pump on and off, walking lots, and even tried taking herbs, and using an essential oil a friend gave me. Nothing really worked. When I was walking I would have decently strong contractions, but as soon as I stopped they petered out. It was Friday, and my in-laws were set to arrive to be staying with us for a time. My husband and I took kids to an indoor family fun carnival in the evening, and the whole time we were there I felt strongly that I wanted to see my midwife. During the carnival I remember holding my baby boy (soon to be middle child) and being acutely aware that this was the last event where he would be my youngest. I wanted to cherish every moment of the evening.

As things were winding down I told my husband that I wanted to call the Midwife as I was now a day past 43 weeks, couldn’t seem to kick labour over into go mode, and hadn’t felt bubs moving as much as usual that day. While I was confident my littlest one was simply tucking in for what lay ahead, I figured it would be wise to make sure. I spoke to my Midwife and she said we should come in and be assessed and monitored for a bit and that she could sweep my membranes too. Not sure if a membrane sweep would push things over into real labour, we called our friend who was doing our birth photography (but didn’t have a car at the time) and said we’d be able to pick her up shortly. My in-laws had arrived at our house while we were at the carnival. We thus dropped our kids off with them, said a quick hello, and headed for the hospital an hour away.

Our midwife met us at the hospital. She assessed me, and we monitored bubs for a bit. I don’t actually remember if I was already dilated or how much if I was, but she said I was soft and certainly ready for labour. She also said that now she had us there she didn’t want us to disappear again. She performed a stretch and sweep and we made arrangements to stay overnight in town. I had some decently strong contractions start up, and was having trouble trying to fall asleep with them. I was starting to wonder if we just needed to head back to the hospital when I finally drifted off. I woke up the next morning (Saturday) with no contractions at all. We also woke up later than we’d thought as we were normally up by 7:00 or so with the kids, but without them there we had both slept in. We rushed to get ready and back to for the 9:00 am meeting we’d agreed to with the midwife to discuss what to do next.

Our midwife said she would be happy to rupture my membranes and was confident things would progress well if we went that route. I was hesitant to start that way as it was my understanding from my previous labours that once my water broke I would be “on the clock” and after somewhat arbitrary amounts of time could be pressured to allow further interventions. I was not quite fully awake and put together and didn’t express any of my concerns though. I just asked what other ways we could try kick things up a notch. Our midwife consulted with the Dr. on call (she had to as per hospital policy) and said she could order an oral dose of cytotec to start labour. When the nurse came in with the pills I remembered the contractions that I’d ended up being steamrolled with my first labour. I was tired from how long it had taken me to fall asleep, hungry from not having eaten breakfast yet, and given our haphazard and rushed morning I felt that everything was coming at me too fast. I chatted with my husband and essentially said I didn’t want to take the pills and would like to leave the hospital, collect myself, eat some breakfast, and then reconvene with the midwife. I remember saying to my husband, “Nobody is holding a gun to our heads saying we need to start labour now. A few hours isn’t going to make or break this.” When we told the nurse that we didn’t want to take the pills and wanted to leave there was some confusion when she relayed our desires to the midwife. The midwife (who was doing training in a different part of the hospital) came back and asked if it was true that we wanted to refuse care from her (essentially firing her from our labour). We assured her that was not the case and clarified what we wanted to do and she was fine with our plans and said she’d see us in a few hours. So we went downtown, met up with our photographer friend and another friend who would be supporting me during labour, and had some food. I collected myself some, and returned to the hospital much more composed and confident. Once again, while walking contractions would get strong, but once I stopped they disappeared.

When our midwife returned she again brought up that she would be happy to rupture my membranes. This time I was able to express my concerns about being “on the clock” and she assured me that wasn’t going to be the case. She said as long as baby and I were looking good then there was no need to add anything else unless it had been quite a long time and I hadn’t made any progress. I didn’t need to fear any 10 or 12 hour arbitrary timeline. I was very relieved and decided that we would just break my waters then. When she was preparing to do so, she noted that baby was still sitting high enough that there was a very real risk of prolapsing the cord if bubs wasn’t lined up right when my water broke. (We later realized this was probably why nothing would ever turn over into sustained labour. Baby was just sitting too high). The doctor on call was called in, and she stabilized my little one while my midwife broke my water. The doctor guided bubs to drop down into place, and I was safe to stand up.

And then I walked, and sat on the bed, and sat on the toilet, and made wonderful progress. I eventually got into the bathtub and laboured there a while and quite appreciated it. My husband did an awesome job of supporting me and I was so thankful for our friend who was also a terrific support. Things started to get harder and I felt shaky and ill and recognized that I was in transition. I focused on making sure the muscles in my face were and thighs were loose and used a low voice to repeat “Mooooovvee down baby.” Throughout everything from the time my water was broken I felt calm, confident, and very well supported. As I progressed through transition though things started to feel different. I couldn’t find a position that was working to manage the contractions (which were only about a 5 on a scale of 1-10 for pain). I started to feel like they were coming at me more than I could cope with. I tried to remain focused and breathe, and relax but it just wasn’t working. I broke down and said I needed a break from everything. My midwife suggested a quick acting narcotic (which I had never thought I would agree with but in the moment was fine with) and I was given a dose of fentanoyl. As the pain abated and I could reflect on things apart from the pain two things hit me. 1)I was terrified of all the sensations coming back, and 2)I remembered this terrified feeling from my last labour. With much more clarity than I probably should have had on a mind altering drug I knew that what I had been overwhelmed with was that same feeling of being violated and just trying to hold on until it was over. I had been trying not to focus on it, and hoping that I could cope better with it this go round. I had hoped that with each contraction I would get a handle on it and it would eventually go away. The feeling wasn’t going away though, it was getting stronger. I knew I did not want to go through the same emotional trauma as my previous delivery and I told my midwife I wanted to get an epidural.

My midwife was a tremendous support and she assured me I was doing well, and encouraged me to keep at it. I told her that I was serious and I wanted an epidural right away. My fentanyl was going to be wearing off shortly and I did get a bit panicked so she ordered a second shot while we sorted things out. I continued to repeat that I wanted an epidural please and thank you. My midwife took my husband out into the hall and had a chat with him. She explained her that she has had many women regret getting an epidural at this stage and that some have even “blamed” her for “letting” them get one instead of continuing to encourage them to carry on. She was concerned that I was being hit hard by transition and might regret having gotten an epidural so close to the end of everything. We had prearranged for our medical team to check with my husband if anything came up where they needed clarification on our birth plan/desires. My husband and I had talked at length about every aspect of our delivery and I figured that while I was in labour I wasn’t interested in trying to explain things to people. I also trust my husband completely and knew he would stick to what we had talked about. I am thankful that our midwife took the time to ask my husband if what I was saying lined up with our desires for this birth, and he assured the midwife that if I was insisting on an epidural I had good reason and that it would be better for me to have one than not.

I remember the midwife coming back into the room and letting me know she needed to check me to see if I was 8 centimetres or more in which case it was too late for the epidural. I said (through tears) “But you’re just going to tell me I’m 8 centimetres and that it’s too late to get one.” In hindsight, when she initially told me that I was doing so great without the epidural and could keep going I felt like she didn’t want me to have an epidural. That wasn’t the case at all, and she was doing her best to support me in what she was thinking was a moment of panic that I might regret. However, this feeling spilled over into thinking she wouldn’t be honest in telling me how far along I was, which was totally irrational. She had not given me any reason to disbelieve her character during my whole pregnancy and I felt bad for essentially accusing her of setting up to lie to me.

Labour makes a person say crazy things!

She gently disagreed with me that she would tell me exactly how far along I was and wasn’t about to make anything up. Then she checked me and said that I was just under 8 cm as I had a lip on my cervix that was keeping me from dilating further. I have not had a lip on my cervix at all in my two previous labours. I honestly believe it was the grace of God on my life that kept me from progressing further as a smidge more of dilation and I wouldn’t have been able to get an epidural. To confirm what she felt she had a nurse check me as well, and the nurse agreed that I was just under 8 cm with a lip on my cervix. The midwife thus called the anaesthesiologist and said she hoped he was able to make it soon. By that time of day the anaesthesiologist was not physically at the hospital and had to be called in to come from home, somewhere in town. I was told it could be 30-40 minutes, but in a much shorter time he was there with his wonderful caddy of needles and other stuff and I rejoiced. I sat as still as I could and tried not to think that a needle was about to puncture into my spine. He numbed my back and then I felt the pressure of a push. But then I felt the pressure of a second push a minute later. I thought to myself “He did two???”. It turns out he didn’t like how the first puncture placed so he did a second try. I had absolutely no side effects from the epidural (I had a terrible pressure headache from the one I got in my first labour) so I think he did a stellar job. Shortly thereafter the tightness and pain started to fade away and it was like I could breathe again.

I was a bit weepy right before and after the epidural.  I remember apologizing to my friends that they wouldn’t get to see a natural labour and telling them I was sorry but it wasn’t my fault and that a very bad man hurt me when I was small and I just couldn’t cope with the feelings this was bringing up from that. They were all great and as the epidural really took I got chatty about all sorts of stuff. Both during this labour and when I had my first baby once the epidural was fully working and was masking all the pain I could still feel and had control over both of my legs. I could also feel all the pressure of baby being so low, and this time I could feel the tightness of my muscles contracting.

As it were, we sat around chatting and then eventually my midwife checked me again and said I could start pushing any time. The bed was up in a seated position and I tried a push and really just felt like not much of anything happened. It didn’t feel like baby moved at all. My husband and I had talked a lot this labour about pushing in alternate positions (I had previously only ever pushed in a seated position with the back of the bed up and the bottom broken down) and I felt like it could be good to try something different. I said to my midwife “I’ve read some good stuff about pushing while kneeling. Do you think that would be a good idea”. She told me I was free to try any position I liked. So I turned around and knelt leaning against the raised head of the bed (as my epidural didn’t prevent me from moving around, thank goodness!). I tried another push and immediately knew that this one was effective. I don’t remember my total number of pushes, but I remember that it wasn’t long before bubs was crowing (My midwife said “Baby has dreadlocks, like me” and I though “Ahh, this one has a lot of hair, eh.”) and then the head was out. My midwife said to breathe a bit and try relax and not to push for a minute to let me stretch some. I remember asking my photographer to get some pics of what was happening and replying to my midwife that “I have a baby’s head sticking out of me and you want me to relax!!” but I did my best to wait a bit. And then I pushed again and bubs was out!! It was 15ish minutes from when I did the first push while kneeling to when my precious new son was on the bed between my knees. My midwife said “This kid has gotta be 5 kilos!!” I guess he was a pretty big newborn compared to the ones she typically sees. She was completely right. Later when we weighed him we learned he was exactly 11 lbs (5 kilos).

I turned around and sat down and they tried to lift him up onto my chest. His cord was pretty short though, so he would only make it up to my belly. I sat, holding him and stroking him and my whole being swelled with joy at this beautiful squalling miracle of life that was now not in my belly but on it. I remember being so happy I could have cried, and simultaneously being so so so thankful to experience that happiness. After a couple minutes the midwife said his cord had stopped pulsing so if we were okay cutting it I could pull him up further onto my chest. My husband (as with our first two babies) cut the cord and I got to hug and hold my sweet little one in a far less awkward embrace. He had meconium on him as he had pooped near the end of the delivery but he was fine and suffered no ill effects from it. I didn’t care that there was poop in his hair. I loved him, and loved that I could feel that love for him as soon as he was born. We dealt with my haemorrhaging (I haemorrhage every time), sang over our sweet baby (we always have a guitar there and songs picked out), stitched me up, and ordered pizza. It was quite the party. Bubs nursed, our friends went to get some much needed sleep, I had a glorious shower, and then we settled in to the rest of our first night with our new son.

I don’t for a second regret getting the epidural. I didn’t regret it when I asked for it, I didn’t regret it five minutes after he was born, and a year later I still don’t regret it. Unlike my first labour where I processed, grieved about, and ultimately made peace with having gotten an epidural, I have never been anything but completely okay with how this delivery went down. Because of that epidural I didn’t spend the last portion of my delivery being clawed at by deep and dark hurts. I didn’t go hollow inside while trying to hold on until everything was over. I didn’t feel ambivalence towards my precious new baby in the moments following birth because I was simply trying to collect myself while being flooded with relief that it was all over. Because of that epidural I did not feel violated and helpless. Because of that epidural I could focus on my precious new baby. I could experience joy, and happiness, and such a deep welling up of love for my husband as he looked on in wonder. I could tune into the weight of this fresh new body on my tummy, then chest. I could marvel at his uniqueness and explain to everyone in the room what his name was and why we chose it. Because of that epidural I have healed so much from the trauma that characterized my previous “ideal” natural labour.

I am not saying it is wrong to desire, or even have a natural labour. I have read a lot of research and recognize that from a purely physical health perspective it is “ideal” to have a labour free of interventions and medications if possible. I think it is sad when women have interventions that they were neither informed about nor had any say in. We hope that in the future if we have more children I will be able to overcome my scars and progress through labour without things breaking down as they have. And, if that doesn’t happen and I am overcome with hurts from my past that I have no control over, I need not carry any guild or shame for the epidural I will get again. Yes, a natural drug free labour can be ideal, but it just might not be ideal for me; an I am perfectly okay with that!  

Hypnobirthing Through Horrible Back Labor: A VBAC Story

Hypnobirthing Through Horrible Back Labor: A VBAC Story

I have been laboring for an entire day. Lying in the bathtub completely relaxed listening to peaceful music and meditating. I hear the door open quietly. I open one eye and take a peek. My oldest son Cash is sneaking in. I close my eye and get back to THE work of relaxation. Feeling a surge coming, I know it will bring the severe pain of back labor. I try to welcome it and remind myself that each of these surges is welcoming my baby into my arms. It doesn’t work. I clench onto the edge of the tub and breathe my agony down to my belly and as I breathe out I suddenly feel a small hand touch my arm and softly glides down to my belly. Then I hear Cash’s voice say softly in my ear “You are strong. You can do this. You are a goddess and the bestest mommy.” He’s repeating affirmations he read on my birth flags to me. I smile and take in this beautiful moment. This is definitely a core memory for us both.

Back labor… I can’t welcome you. Back labor turned this birth into something I was not prepared to face. Two weeks postpartum and I still cringe thinking about the torment. The peacefulness I wanted with this birth was stolen. I have to remind myself that Mayuq’s birth story is still beautiful.

Wednesday night, I begin to show definite signs of labor. I was 13 days late at this point and excited to see my body and baby were making progress. We made some arrangements for the next day thinking it will happen that night. I play my affirmation tapes all night while I sleep alone in my bedroom. The next morning comes and I feel surges every now and then while the kids were in school. I feel the surges pretty hard on my back and this is nothing I’ve experienced before. We knew the baby was head down but looking to the left of me. We tried a few techniques for flipping him into a better position, unfortunately nothing was working. So, I keep affirming to myself; “my baby moves to the perfect position for birth” and went back to work on my meditation.

After school was out we feed the boys and tell them baby will be here soon and take them to our cousin Robyn’s to sleep over. I just had a feeling it would be Friday morning. The surges were so strong but still so far apart and inconsistent. My husband and I were alone that night. Along with the surges comes intense back pain. I spend the whole night trying to sleep in between surges. The back pain was exhausting. The surges were still 15-20 minutes apart and I was able to rest despite the pain.

In the morning we have a stress test and asked if they could check my progress. I’m expecting to be at least four centimeters. The baby looks great and was still in the same position but I was only dilated two and a half centimeters. I think to myself, how strange. The back pain, and the strength of the surges had me convinced I had to be making more progress than this. The midwife sent us home and said she would probably see us tonight.

We grabbed the boys and took them home. My husband sent me to birth in the bathtub while they hung out until we were able to take the boys to another friend’s house. I had to keep changing surroundings to cope with the back pain. I moved from the bedroom listening to hypnobirthing music playing, to the shower with hot water on my back. I switched to laying in the warm tub with essential oils soaking me trying to distract myself from the pain somehow.

Surges are 10-15 minutes apart still. Enough time to cope with the pain and rest as much as I could. When it came time for my husband to drop the boys off with Yuki, he leaves me alone with a heating pad strapped to my back. It helped a bit.

I lay on my bed focusing on breathing my love to this baby. I remind myself of the powerful words that my girlfriends wrote at my blessingway. Thinking of how my good friend Shana brought me to my place with my husband a month ago through yoga and meditation. I knew that this birth wasn’t going the way I expected. It was a struggle to bring myself to a place of peace. I feel the next surge approaching. I squeeze my hands on the bed and breathed in deeply. In my mind my birthing flags are connecting and spinning above me. When I breathe out they fall, spinning around my body.

The shooting pain takes over and I breathe telling myself I have less than a minute of this and I will get to relax again. I breathe out and tell myself; I am prepared to calmly meet whatever turns my birthing takes. This was going to be the affirmation to help me get through this. This is going to be my second VBAC. I hear my door open. It was Joy, my best friend. She lies quietly next to me on my bed. “Hi Joy,” I whisper.

I am glad for this visit. It helps me re-fuel. To be able to express the challenge I am facing to a good friend. She hangs around a bit after my husband gets home. We all share a pineapple that I requested. I was craving it for some odd reason. We make plans for her to meet us at the hospital when we decide to go. I know I still have a lot of work to do before heading to the hospital; we tentatively plan for 9 pm as the next checkpoint. The plan is to get there right at the end. I don’t want to labor in a hospital.

9 pm comes. The surges are closer together; the back pain was even more intense. I cry to go to the hospital but based on the distance between surges my husband suggests the shower again. I tremble in the shower. I can barely stand. I scream for him to be close. I tell him I can’t do this, the back pain is too much. I’ve never experienced anything like this. I lay back down on the bed, by now dreading every surge because I know that each one will bring this back pain. My husband disappears to the computer to search how to help. Every time a surge comes he shows up trying different things to help me cope. Nothing helped. One time he presses a spot on my lower back that redirects the pain elsewhere. This I can cope with, finally some relief. He can’t find the spot after that. Every spot he touches makes it worse. It was unbearable; I beg to go to the hospital. I see he is already packing.

The drive is only ten minutes. Every surge I have had in the car makes it exponentially worse because of the way I’m sitting. He promises only one, maybe two surges to deal with in the car. It was a least four. They were so awful that I cry out his name grabbing at everything in sight. It feels like my back is going to break. When we arrive at the hospital, everyone thought I was about to have this baby at the front desk. My water breaks right there.

I get admitted straight into a labor room. It’s the room I wanted. It has a huge bath and shower and lots of space. It doesn’t matter to me anymore. I’m leaking amniotic fluid.

“Sacha, are you pushing?” the nurse asks me. It feels like I’m pushing, but not of my own volition. I couldn’t help myself. She checks me and says I’m at five centimeters. I lose it. “Fuck! Are you fucking kidding me?!!!”

My husband is telling me it’s great. The midwife says I’ve already done most of the work. I am panicking. How am I going to survive this birth? I feel like this at five how will I cope at ten? I can’t even imagine what the pain might be like then, or how long this is going to last.

I feel like I’m about to pass out. I’m on my hands and knees and I can barely stay up. More amniotic fluid. “Do you have anything for the back pain? Just the back pain?” I ask. She tells me my options are nitrous or an epidural. I do not want an epidural, the last one I had I couldn’t feel my entire bottom half. This is the path to a C-section. I repeat my affirmation as the back pain hits. It feels like my back is breaking. I am prepared to calmly meet whatever turns my birthing takes. They give me the nitrous mask and I put it on and breathe deeply through it for about a minute. Nothing. I throw it back at them, “This shit is stupid! It’s not helping my back. Please, my back I can’t fight this!” My husband tries to give me my earplugs to listen to my hypnobirthing music. I get mad and throw them; my back hurts so much I don’t care about anything.

“I want the epidural. I’m going to have to do this,” I say as assertively as I can. I know this is my husband’s cue to talk me out of this. He knows his job. I’ve said this every time but I don’t mean it. I don’t want an epidural; I want the pain to stop. This back labor is so much more intense than anything I have ever experienced. I really do mean it this time. I am at the point where I can’t relax in between surges; I just pant in exhaustion and anxiously await the next painful episode. I make the decision and I am OK with it. I make peace with my decision.

“Warren… I will PUSH this baby out! I can still do hypnobirthing with an epidural.” I reassure my husband. The surge hits my back again and I am unable to continue my speech to him. I know he is supporting me the way he is supposed to. He is still trying to talk me out of it and I scream with agony and cry and he just stops and says “I’m sorry babe. I am so sorry you are feeling this back pain. But, you can do this. You are almost done.” He is right. I am almost done. I am now at 8 cm. I went from a 5-8 very quickly. In the moment, all I want is this pain to stop.

The surge is gone and I know they are getting the epidural ready somewhere at my insistence, and despite my husband’s objections. A different nurse pops out of nowhere and overhears me scream of back agony. She mentions they have sterile water injections and says we should try them. Warren chimes in and says something like “oh, you guys have that option? I was just reading about that.” I try to listen but the surge hits me and I can’t think straight. I want to hear them; I want to learn more about it so I can make a decision but I can’t I am trying so hard not to pass out. Apparently, Warren was suggesting we try it. The anesthesiologist tells him in her experience it doesn’t work that well and continues preparing the epidural.

I ended up getting the epidural the last hour of my birth. Warren holds me up while they stab me repeatedly looking for a gap in my spine. My history with back pain in general is extensive. The hardest part during this process was to stay still through the pain. It feels like my back is breaking into pieces. I stay still while Warren holds me. I remember crying, trembling and screaming through the back pain wishing it was just a normal contraction. I can hear the nurses telling me that I am doing great holding still. I thank my hypnobirthing to be able to do this. This takes much longer due to the anesthesiologist not able to find the right spot. She finally finds it and when the numb feeling hits my back I am relieved but feeling cloudy.

I was pleased that I actually could move my legs and body and still feel the pressure of surges. This makes me feel extremely confident with this decision. I know I can push my new baby into this world with no problem. I turned to look at Warren. He looks concerned and distressed. I know he is thinking this is going to end up like Cash’s birth. He is thinking that I’ll be too numb to push this baby out. So, I look at him and say his name to snap him back to my reality. “Warren! I WILL push this baby out! I can do this. I can still use my hypnobirthing!” Hypnobirthing is not only about achieving natural birth. It’s about believing in yourself and surrounding yourself with empowerment and accepting your birth, wherever it turns. And I did just that.

Twenty minutes later I felt the urge to push. They checked me and I was fully dilated and ready to meet my baby. It only took me 23 minutes of pushing to bring him into this world. My husband kissing me telling me I was doing amazing and the midwife and nurses coaching me so well and so supportive at this point. Honestly, it felt weird pushing without the feeling of surges. I wished to feel them but knew it wouldn’t feel like that with the back labor pain. So, I reminded myself that I am still strong and I smile and say out loud, “I can’t wait to hold him! I am so happy he is finally coming to me!” I reached down to feel his head crowning and I smiled and pushed again and then he was in my arms screaming his baby lungs out. When they tell me what time he is born I am in shock that it’s now Saturday. Two and half days have really gone by? What a warrior my body is.

Mayuq Raul
Born at 2:23am Saturday 11/12/2016
8.8 pounds 22 inches
15 days past the “due date” (just like Rowan)
Another fun one, Cash was born on a Thursday, Rowan on a Friday and Mayuq on a Saturday

It’s been a few months now since Mayuq was born. I find myself with very mixed emotions. Back labor was something fierce. I was planning on writing how awful it was and how the reader should understand why I needed to have the epidural the last hour of my birth. I was trying to justify why my birth didn’t go the way I wanted it to.

Instead I just want to say this. WOW… Women are strong. We birth our children in so many different ways. And we should be proud no matter the outcome. When I had Cash as a C-section, I didn’t feel strong. I felt defeated. Rowan’s birth healed me to help me look at Cash’s birth as a voice to be reconnected with. Fighting for my VBAC and able to have him naturally and gentle was an amazing experience. This last birth I have fought with my emotions on how to think about it.

Talking to some friends that have gone through back labor has made me feel better about my experience. One friend said to me “Doesn’t it make you feel even stronger?” Yes, it does. It also makes me cry or think about what I could have done differently. But, that’s not fair to me. So, I choose to think of the amazing parts of my birth and pregnancy such as these: My oldest supporting me in my bath, my best friend’s visit to share a pineapple, my husband telling me he was sorry for my back pain, using affirmations and meditation to help me birth for so long, my beautiful visions of mountains, my good friend’s candle lighting when I started to birth, my blessingway ceremony, touching my son’s head when he was crowning, having him instantly on my chest and having a second successful vaginal birth after cesarean. And with that I have mastered my peace.

My birthing experience has come to an end. What an amazing journey motherhood is. Although, my personal birthing is done I hope to enjoy others in the future. Possibly pursue my dreams of being in the birthing world such as get my certificate so I can hold hypnobirthing classes. I think my experiences can be helpful to others and I just cannot imagine my life without helping other women achieve their birthing wishes. Thank you for reading Mayuq’s story with an open heart.

Here are some links about back labor and what it is and how to spin your baby back into a better birthing position. My baby was posterior, which is why I think I had the worst results of back labor, a very long pre-labor and some tear:

Also, sterile water injections are for the moms that experience back labor. It might save your natural birth labor if that is your goal. It works very well with cases of pain level at a 8-10 and have an hour left of labor. I would have been the perfect candidate for that option.

When I asked the midwife “what do you have for back labor!?” she never mentioned it. The nurse that was in the room for 3 minutes did. And at that point, it was too late for me to make a clear decision. Getting consent for something like an epidural when you are in intense pain is an interesting topic, especially in light of a birth plan I wrote when I was clear headed. I also think that having a doula at this birth would have been very helpful this time around. Warren had a hard time juggling my needs and fighting for my birthing wishes during transition at the hospital. It also would have been very helpful to have a woman’s touch that knows what she is doing due to training and experience.

My favorite affirmations I used:

I am prepared to calmly meet whatever turn my birthing might take
I birth with Ease
Breathing in I am Strong, Breathing out I let go
I allow my body to fully relax
Every surge brings my baby closer to me
I look forward to the day of my birthing, the day I meet my baby
My baby moves to the perfect position for birth
I breathe my love down to my baby
I am a strong woman
I am so happy that my baby is finally coming to me
My mind is clear; I focus on the miracle that is happening within me
My baby and body work together in harmony
I look forward to holding my little baby in my arms
I am calm and at peace
My body knows what to do
I tune into my body and out
My baby is safe and comfortable
I am safe and comfortable
I am loved
What a beautiful day… The day I meet my baby.

Story and photographs submitted by Sacha Jones. 

Eloise’s Birth Story: Finding Healing & Hope

Eloise’s Birth Story: Finding Healing & Hope

By the time I became pregnant with my second child, I knew the kind of birth I wanted. I had spent most of my life hating my body. For not being thin enough. For not being pretty enough. For not being good enough. I hated my body for its infertility and, most of all, for the miscarriage that I had suffered when we first started trying to conceive another baby. My first birth, an induced birth in a hospital with an epidural that gave me my beautiful first daughter, was nothing short of lovely. Though the induced labor was hard, everything went according to plan and I had no complaints or regrets. It was the perfect thing for me at the time.

But for my second, I knew I wanted more. I had heard talk of how wonderful it was to give birth naturally, without medicated pain relief. How empowering. How profound and transformative. Every birth has the power to do that. My first transformed me, certainly. But with my second chance, I yearned for a deeper, more transcendent experience. And so a natural birth, one without an epidural or any other intervention of the sort, was written into my birth plan.

And then, two days past her due date, my precious, unborn baby girl turned breech. And I was suddenly, between my sobs, signing papers to agree to a c-section because no doctor that I knew of would deliver a breech baby vaginally. And then a day later, on the morning of my scheduled c-section, my baby flipped again and suddenly I was begging to be induced. Another induction was not what I wanted and, in retrospect, perhaps I should have just waited for labor to begin, but I was scared. I was scared my baby would flip again and that would be that. I would have to have that baby cut out of me. A c-section scared me more than anything else and so we went forth with the induction.

It was a cool, overcast October day in 2013 when we dropped my daughter Sydney off at a friend’s house and drove the few miles to the hospital. It was my mom, my husband and I in the car and we arrived for the induction fifteen minutes late. We were out of breath, anxious, nervous, and excited. We had been waiting for this day to come for a very long time. And still, we waited some more. In fact, we spent the next eight hours waiting. Waiting to be checked in and taken to our room. Waiting to complete all the admission questions. Waiting through an hour of fetal monitoring. Waiting for my blood work to come back and my urine to be tested. Waiting for the doctor (not my OB, but one of his partners) to do an ultrasound. (The baby was still head-down, thankfully.) Waiting for my first dose of Cytotec to ripen my cervix (which I did not even get until 11 a.m. though I arrived just after 8 a.m.). Waiting through more fetal monitoring. Waiting for contractions to start. Waiting for them to get stronger and closer together. The waiting was endless.

Around 4 p.m., the few contractions I was having pretty much petered out. They were at least ten minutes apart and I couldn’t feel them at all. It was decided then that I’d be given a second dose, this time twice as much, of Cytotec. This meant at least another two hours of fetal monitoring. It felt like I would be tied to my hospital bed forever. I ached to get on my feet, to stretch my legs and back, but instead I had to be happy with switching from sitting to side-lying on one side or the other. The whole process seemed endless and I was beginning to worry if an induction would even be successful this time.

And then everything started to change.

Within an hour of my double dose of Cytotec, I went from having essentially no contractions to having them every ninety seconds. They weren’t yet strong enough to cause me the sort of pain that I would experience in the hours ahead, but they certainly were enough to make me stop and catch my breath. And they gave me hope that this thing might happen after all. That my body could and would respond to another induction and bring forth the baby I felt kicking away in my womb.

But then suddenly, the baby’s heart rate dropped. During one of many contractions, her heart rate dipped from the 130s to 80 or so. My nurse had me quickly recline and turn onto my side and the baby’s heart rate returned to normal, but I could tell the nurse was shaken by it and so was I. We waited and watched in the minutes that followed and while the baby’s heart rate did not decelerate again, it also didn’t show the variability (the up and down of a heart rate that often occurs with contractions or movement) that is considered a reassuring sign. The charge nurse came in to watch the fetal monitor alongside my personal nurse, but nothing changed. I became worried. They kept assuring me that my baby was okay and probably just sleeping, and I could hear her heartbeat and knew she was alive, but I suddenly felt so very vulnerable. We were in a hospital and well on our way to welcoming our long-awaited-for baby into this world, but she still wasn’t safe. We had spent a year, praying for her conception. I had spent nine months of pregnancy, in an almost constant panic, always afraid that we would lose her too. She was now about to be born and she STILL wasn’t safe. She wouldn’t be until she was in my arms. It was a frightening realization and the tears flowed quietly as I sat there waiting for her to move, waiting for that sign that she was still okay.

What was supposed to be two hours of fetal monitoring became two-and-a-half. Three. Three-and-a-half. I was so sick of lying in bed, but the nurses didn’t want me to get up until they saw a change in the baby’s heart rate and, in my fear and anxiety, I didn’t have the heart to protest. It was decided that the best course of action would be to administer terbutaline, a drug sometimes given to stop premature labor, but for me it would be used to slow down my contractions, hopefully giving my baby girl the time to catch her “breath” and bounce back after contractions coming too close together for too long.

Around this time, I also decided I was ready to text my dear friend Kim to ask her to come to the hospital. Kim birthed her second child naturally and feels passionately about women’s birth rights and the benefits of natural birth, and I knew her presence and encouragement would be a crucial part of my birth plan. With the contractions becoming painful, my body shaking uncontrollably, and my heart so full of fear for my baby, I knew then that I needed her, not only to help me through the contractions, but to give me the extra emotional support and comfort.

Kim arrived 45 minutes later just as my contractions were finally slowing down to a more manageable spacing of 2-3 minutes apart. The doctor arrived shortly thereafter to check my dilation (3cm, I think?) and try to tickle the baby’s head to see if her heart rate would respond to touch. I was also encouraged to go to the bathroom and, just as I climbed back into bed for more monitoring, our precious baby finally awoke and began kicking and wiggling away, which led to the heart rate accelerations we had all been waiting for. The relief in the room was palpable. I felt such a sense of calm flow through me and my shaking stopped almost instantly. So the terbutaline had done its job and the baby was rebounding nicely, but there was a new problem: my pulse was abnormally high. It was most likely a side effect of the terbutaline, but it was a cause for concern nevertheless and once again kept me from being free from all the wires. So I was monitored some more. Perhaps I should have fought them at that point and demanded the opportunity to walk around, but I had always known this was one of those unfortunate parts of being induced. And I also believed that having a good rapport with the nurses was going to be critical if I wanted this all to go as smoothly as possible. And so I stayed in bed and allowed the monitoring to continue.

Finally, though, after hours stuck in essentially the same position, I was able to walk the floor. I would still have to be monitored the entire time and kept hydrated with my IV fluids, but I could use the portable fetal monitor instead. So I walked about as the contractions grew in their intensity and my mom, Kim, and my husband took turns pushing my IV pole and holding my gigantic jug of apple juice.

hospital birth, birth without fear

After an hour of walking the halls of the birth center, I was ready for a change of pace. My contractions were back to being about ninety seconds apart and they were becoming more difficult to talk and walk through. We decided to try the bathtub instead, since the portable fetal monitor was also waterproof. That hot (so hot we had to add ice cubes to it) water was such a relief. The first couple contractions I spent there I didn’t even feel and the ones that came after were greatly reduced in intensity. I felt like I could have spent the rest of my life sitting there, immersed in that warmth. Unfortunately, the water made it difficult to monitor the baby and, given our earlier scare and my constant fears for our rainbow baby, I really wanted to be monitored, however cumbersome it was. And so back to the bed I went.

As the contractions continued to come very close together and seemed to become more painful with each one, and the back labor became nearly impossible to endure, we tried everything we could for natural pain management. A variety of positions, from all-fours, to side-lying, to sitting on a birthing ball while leaning on the bed (my favorite), and more. We tried massage with a rolling pin. Counterpressure from a rolling pin. Hip squeezing. A hot water bottle against my lower back. Cold rags on my face and back. Listening to my labor CD. The list goes on. We had quite the “toolkit” and yet nothing felt like it was enough. The back labor had me crippled with each contraction and, with the contractions so constant, there were no breaks. No recovery time. I felt like I was treading water. And sinking.

When my water broke shortly after midnight in a gush that soaked me and the bed, I got scared. Throughout my labor, I had been telling Kim, “I’m scared. I’m scared.” And I was. It was my constant mantra, this admission of fear. Fear of the pain. Fear for my baby’s well-being. Fear for my ability to endure. Fear of the unknown. And this time, I meant it more than ever. I was afraid. So afraid. Afraid because I knew the contractions would get harder without the cushion of amniotic fluid. And they did. Oh, God, did they! Ten minutes earlier, it had been hard to imagine any more pain than what I was experiencing in that moment. But now I knew…it could get worse. It would get worse. I still had a long way to go.

I will say this: I was really at my most vulnerable, my most primal, during my labor. The low, deep moans. The wailing and whimpering I couldn’t control. The wild hair that has me cringing when I look at photos, but that I didn’t even ponder when I was in the middle of it all. The cries for help. The farting. The peeing. The vomiting. I didn’t poop during delivery, but I did just about everything else.

And yet, I had never felt more present in my life. I had my eyes closed throughout much of it, but my senses of touch and hearing were incredible. I could tell who was touching me just by the weight of their hand. I heard every conversation even as I turned inwards to get through the worst of the contractions. I was able to respond to questions, able to hear my baby’s beating heart, able to laugh when Honey told a joke. I felt more empowered than perhaps I ever had. I was doing what female mammals had been doing for thousands of years. I was experiencing, fully, truly experiencing the glory and grief of womanhood at an acute intensity. It was amazing.

It’s a funny thing to feel so strong and weak at once. Strong because I felt completely and totally alive. But weak because I really was beginning to feel like I couldn’t go on. I was tired. And I was in excruciating, unbearable pain that was relentless. As soon as one contraction ended, another began, and it had been that way for hours. More than once, I wished that my baby had been breech after all and I’d been forced to have a c-section. And with those thoughts, the “e”-word also rose to the surface. Epidural. Epidural, epidural, epidural. The four syllables thudded through my head over and over and over. I wanted to give in and give up. I wanted someone to give me the permission to do so.

I started to feel some painful rectal pressure and I said so. It was about 2 a.m. The nurse checked me. I wanted her to say I was 7, 8, 9, 10 centimeters dilated. I needed to know the end was near. And I told myself if it wasn’t, I would consider accepting pain meds. I would admit my weaknesses and cry uncle.

I was then told I was 4-5cm along.

“Oh, god. I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore!” I felt like crying.

The charge nurse, Debbie, knelt before me. She told me to open my eyes and look at her. She told me I had a decision to make. “You need to decide what you want to do,” she said. “Not during a contraction. Not immediately after. But in between. Talk to your husband. Decide what you can live with. And we will support you in whatever you choose.” She never said the “e”-word, as I had requested that it not be offered to me, but essentially, she was giving me the permission to give up that I so desired.

After another contraction, Kim gently asked me if I wanted to talk to my husband. “No, I want to talk to you,” I said. “I don’t want to let you down. You were so strong when you had your baby and I know this isn’t the kind of birth you wanted to attend.” Kim laughed. She said not to worry about her, that this had nothing to do with her. That each woman’s labor is unique and I had already been so strong, so amazing.

Another contraction gripped me and then I asked my husband if he would be disappointed in me if I asked for an epidural. Though I yearned for the permission to give up, a part of me was hoping he would say yes. That someone would require me to stick with it. Instead, Dan whispered loudly, “Honestly, I can’t even remember why we want a natural birth.” The nurses laughed. Mom and Kim laughed. So did I. “Why do we want to do this again?” he asked.

“Because it’s what’s best for the baby,” I said. And I did believe it was best for my baby girl AND for me, but with another contraction coming on strong, it was hard to feel much conviction. And so as soon as I caught my breath, I relented. I asked for an epidural. I was disappointed in myself, and for a long time afterwards I would hold onto that shame, but I was relieved too. And desperate for the anesthesiologist to come as quickly as he could. Fast would not be fast enough.

I kept asking for the epidural. Or rather, screaming for it. Begging for it. “Where is he? Where is he?” I asked over and over. “I need heeeeelllllp!” I could feel myself losing control, spiraling. I was a mess. A number of times, it occurred to me that if there was another pregnant woman walking the halls in early labor and if she happened to pass my room, I would probably scare that baby right out of her. My pain terrified me; surely it would terrify someone else too. But even while I knew that I had lost all grip on my pain management, and even though Kim worked very hard to guide me in getting it back under control, I couldn’t. I wouldn’t listen. I wanted no part in working with the contractions anymore. I just wanted pain relief. And I just wanted that baby out of me.

And then suddenly, I felt the most incredible, undeniable pressure. It felt like I was being turned inside out. Like I was being ripped apart. “I feel like I have to poop!” I screamed. But even as I said it, I knew I didn’t. I knew I just needed to push. I knew my baby was ready.

And when the nurse checked me, just fifteen minutes or so after my last check when I was only 4-5cm dilated, sure enough…it was confirmed that I was fully effaced, fully dilated, and ready to push. With no epidural in sight.

The problem? The on-call doctor was at home a half-hour away. And the other doctor on the floor was no where to be found.

“I have to push! I have to push!” I screamed.

“No! No, don’t push!” Everyone screamed back. My nurse ran to gather a team of nurses to help in the delivery while Debbie (the charge nurse) tried to convince me that I had to wait until the doctor arrived. And I did try, but only half-heartedly. I already knew that I couldn’t hold back much longer.

“I can feel her coming! I feel her head. I need her out! I need her out!” Phrases like that streamed out of me, over and over, while everyone kept telling me not to push. To wait. To hold on.

But there came a point of no return. The baby was coming, ready or not, and so I let go. I screamed and I pushed. One, two, three. Three pushes, one vivid ring of fire, and less than five minutes later, and then there she was, in the hands of Debbie and my nurse, whimpering. Not crying. It was 2:23 a.m.

“Is she okay?” I asked, straining to see her, already on my way to forgetting the intensity of the pain that I had just endured.

“She’s fine,” they told me and she was placed on my chest, warm and gooey and beautiful, and then she did cry a loud, perfect wail and the greatest weight was lifted from my shoulders. My second daughter was here, safe at last, and nothing mattered more than that. This was the moment I had been fighting for, crying for, praying for, waiting for, hoping for, yearning for, preparing for, for months and months and months. Perhaps my whole life.

hospital birth, healing, birth without fear

Kim once asked me if I felt any trauma from this birth. I think my husband does. Seeing me writhing in pain has lingered in his head and heart for years. But me? All of the pain, all of the fear, the sense of helplessness and defeat, was buried by a mound of relief and joy the moment I held my Eloise in my arms. And time has only made the sweet moments sweeter in my memory and helped the rest to fade away.

I have since gone on to have another child, my first boy. He was born naturally as well, and was my first that didn’t require an induction. And though he helped me to understand just how different induced contractions are compared to natural ones and his birth was the ideal scenario, everything I had hoped for across the years, it is Eloise’s birth that was the most powerful for me. Her birth brought me to the brink. Stripped down. Raw. No other birth has made me suffer so much or empowered me so greatly. I found such healing in bringing her into this world. After so much pain, both in trying to conceive her and in laboring through such agony, and after so many years of hating my body for one reason or another, I learned just what my body is capable of. I learned what I am made of. I learned just how strong I can be. And for that, I will never be the same.

hospital birth, birth without fear, healing

Embracing the Unexpected: Akash’s Birth Story

Embracing the Unexpected: Akash’s Birth Story

Life has a funny way of taking what we plan and completely turning it on its head. Akash’s birth was no exception to this rule. Throughout 2016, William and I had taken several leaps of faith. However, even in the midst of moving hectically four times, navigating an unexpected job change for William, and rolling with life’s other twists and turns, we were fastidious in planning Akash’s transition from the womb to earth through a homebirth. Besides working closely with our midwife, we read, googled, watched documentaries, and meditated our way to facilitating a smooth transition for this little miracle of a being.

Throughout the pregnancy, I was incredibly fortunate to feel energized and healthy for the most part, save for a salmonella scare in May. I was in great awe of the work my body was doing without any intervention from me and that I could grow an entire human after having received just one extra cell. To encourage our baby’s development, I ate wholesome foods, exercised regularly, and even chose my environment, music, reading material, and movies carefully. I strongly felt anything that passed through me could make its way to Akash. By the time mid-November rolled around, I was feeling strong, prepared, and ready to settle into motherhood. I was convinced that I had done what was needed to have the birth we had planned. Even though William reminded me that we have to be open to anything, I was sure that with my health and the work we had put into creating an optimum space for this event, all would be fine.

Starting the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I began to experience strong Braxton Hicks almost every morning. Sometimes they would even increase in intensity and I would tell William that today might be the day, only to have everything dissipate by noon. Eventually I began to wonder if my body was missing some sort of starter mechanism – almost as if it was trying to get things moving but couldn’t quite make it happen. Regardless, I increased the length and frequency of my walks and we tried herbs and other exercise tricks our midwife recommended to invite Akash earth side with a bit more urgency.

Soon his December 1st due date had passed and more days ticked by with nothing but Braxton Hicks. He also still hadn’t dropped into my pelvis, which is unusual for a first baby by this point. We went in for an ultrasound on Monday, December 12th to make sure all was well. While all seemed fine, we had to do some follow up testing to ensure he was able to move around enough. Even though he had moved frequently during the follow up testing, we were still strongly encouraged to get an induction that day and I left feeling disheartened and nervous for what was to come, as that visit was the first time that someone had said outright that my body and baby may not be capable of doing this job on their own. I felt a tremendous wave of fear, frustration, and loss that evening as it was seriously considered for the first time that the home birth we had worked so hard to plan may not come to be. In retrospect, this swirl of emotions may have likely laid the groundwork for the experience that would come to be.

The next morning we went to meet with our midwife, Michelle, and found that his position was still not conducive to birth and he had a slight dip in his heart rate during our monitoring. We decided we would go back for a follow up ultrasound to make sure everything was still going well. That ultrasound indicated there was meconium in the waters, which can lead to complications after birth. Between his position, the earlier drop in heart rate, and this new development, we decided William and I would check into the hospital for additional monitoring and try a cervical induction method.

Once hooked up on the monitor at the hospital, it was clear his heart rate was strong and steady and I received medicine to thin my cervix and hopefully initiate contractions. Luckily the procedure was all done by 5:30 and we were able to go downstairs and see my mom’s holiday concert, as she sings in the hospital choir. The baby seemed to enjoy their rendition of Jingle Bells in particular, as I had quite the flurry of kicks and spins!

We went back to our room and I began to bounce on the birthing ball as if my life depended on it for a while. After my parents brought us dinner, William and I relaxed and he dozed off, but my night was just beginning. Contractions began around 9:30 and came anywhere from 2-6 minutes apart for much of the night. While the intensity wasn’t too serious, I began to feel hopeful that things were finally moving downwards. The contractions lasted through the night and the hospital gave us the ok to go home and try to continue the process in our own space.

While they dissipated a bit in the car, I spent much of Wednesday on the couch trying to sleep between the contractions, where were a steady 7 minutes apart. William spent the day preparing our home with the final touches and organizing the birth supplies that we had spent so long curating and excitedly preparing.

Michelle came over around 5pm, as the contractions were a steady 6 minutes apart. She checked and found that I was still just 1 centimeter dilated and we decided it would make sense for me to try to get some more rest, as sleep had been in short supply. Her plan for early labor was to rest for a bit and work for a bit, and I was grateful for purposeful time to let my body relax and was surprised how I was able to more or less doze through the contractions when I really let myself go.

When I came back down from the nap, it was time to get to work. I walked up and down stairs, tried squatting, bouncing on the ball, and doing lunges. Michelle encouraged me to sink deeper and deeper into each contraction and William was a phenomenal support, as I would often lean into him during the most intense moments of each one. We would chant “Aum” together to help me breathe through the peak of the rush and I found incredible comfort and fortitude in this shared experience.

We took another rest later on and when I came down at 11:30pm we found my waters had broken slightly and I had a steady trickle. Now we were really starting to gain hope, though the contractions were still 6 minutes apart or so. We did a quick check and it did seem he had moved down slightly as well. We went back to work for a bit, but this was interrupted by me getting sick and needing to vomit. Luckily, I felt revived after that and was able to keep walking and trying methods of sinking into each rush. When I could rally to say make more noise than just a moan, I would often chant Open along with Aum interchangeably during each rush as a way to remind my body what we were trying to accomplish and spiral my hips to encourage our baby to spin downwards.

Around 1:30am on Thursday morning, Patti, a nurse and home birth midwife who specializes in uterine massage, joined us. She worked on my uterus for almost two hours, trying to coax our baby down and help my muscles coordinate their actions to facilitate this process. It also became clear that getting sick was going to be part of this experience, as I again had to throw up in the middle of her work. Her gentle touch and presence was incredibly important during the darkest time of the night, as she has a very calming presence even in the midst of such intensity.

After her visit we did some more walking and trying to find ways to move to increase the intensity and frequency of the contractions, but to no avail and I felt like I desperately needed some more rest. Around 5:30 I was woken by the strongest rushes of intensity I had felt yet. I had to keep reminding myself that every sensation I was experiencing was coming from my own muscles and my own body so they could not overpower me, because the intensity was created by me. Michelle had called the rest of our home birth team by this point and Allie, her assistant, and Gillian, our secondary midwife, were there when I made it back out to the living room. Their quiet synergy allowed William and me to be enveloped in conscious and deliberate care, without our space being intruded on. I was so grateful for this balance as I was trying to navigate this seeming next stage of the labor process with the ever-increasing intensity.

birthing tubDespite our best efforts, the intensity again waned and we decided to do another check. It was incredibly disheartening to find that, after 36 hours of contractions, I was only 2 centimeters dilated. At this point, the five of us had to have a conversation because my water had been broken for long enough that the risk of infection could start increasing. We decided that we were going to spend the next couple hours doing everything and anything we could to get this baby out at home and then revisit all the options we had.

William and I took this opportunity to go for a walk to the bottom of the driveway and visit our favorite neighborhood dog. Getting a bit of sun and fresh air felt absolutely amazing and I felt like we were able to recenter and ground ourselves back down to this seemingly endless journey. Upon arrival back at the cabin, we changed the music from our quiet and steady yogic chants to more upbeat Thievery Corporation, which William eventually changed to a psytrance DJ to really get the mood up. We filled the tub and I tried a couple different positions there, as well as more squatting and stairs.

Regardless of our efforts however, no progress was being made and it was now around 1pm on Thursday. Still getting sick occasionally and running on little sleep, I was becoming increasingly exhausted and finding it harder and harder to really sink into the contractions and give my body full permission to use them to open. The process began to feel more like a fight and my mind began to swirl with doubt in my ability to find the light at the end of the tunnel, literally and figuratively.

After a long conversation, we decided to call the hospital, as it seemed this baby needed a stronger invitation to join us, as the risks for complications were getting higher. Of course, just as we were able to leave, I sank into my strongest waves of contractions yet. We thought we had another glimmer of hope for a home birth, but this was short lived and eventually we made our way back to the hospital.

hospital roomWilliam drove us to the hospital and we didn’t talk much, just sharing the space and accepting the experience we were being given. He wheeled me up to the Birth Place and they put us in a room so we could get settled. William quickly went to work, hanging Christmas tree lights and setting up a makeshift version of the birth altar we had created at home. The twinkling lights and vibrant energy created by the altar helped ease this transition and made the space feel much more like our own which was exactly what we needed at that moment.

After conversations with Michelle and the midwife from the hospital, we decided that I would get a saline bag to start and see how things were going once I could get more hydrated. Once I was all set up, my parents and sister were able to join us briefly and they came with such love and support for us in the midst of an experience they knew would be challenging for us. Around this time, William and I decided that I would receive an epidural. Even though the contractions were less intense than they had been at home, I felt myself fighting them more and more and was no longer able to embrace them and facilitate the opening that needed to happen. After the saline bag had finished, the anesthesiologist came in to administer the epidural.

Once the epidural was in, I was laying in bed and looking at William when I noticed he was getting very hard to focus on and there were spots of darkness permeating my vision. I tried to focus closely on him but was unable to really narrow in on his face and I told the nurse I was feeling dizzy. Initially she did not seem too concerned but than I really stressed how it was getting worse and they found that my blood pressure was dipping because I had not been hydrated enough after being sick for so long. She immediately gave me oxygen and had me breathe into the mask. This made me sick, however, and she quickly gave me a bag. Unfortunately my blood pressure was not going up and they called another nurse in and had me turn onto my hands and knees. I lost track of what they were doing but I knew things were tense in the room. When I asked where William was and they said he had gone to the bathroom, I became more concerned because he hadn’t left my side once during this whole time, and I knew for him to excuse himself the numbers on the monitors must be concerning. They gave me Ephedrine to bring my blood pressure back up, but unfortunately the baby’s heart rate rose along with it to 186, while it should have been staying below 160. Luckily we had an incredible nurse who kept us all calm at this time and we all encouraged the baby to slow down a bit and waited for the Ephedrine to wear off for both of us.

After that episode, they wanted to wait before adding Pitocin to start contractions and instead let both Akash and I recover. By now it was 8:30 and William and I were grateful for the rest. He fell into a deep sleep almost immediately, while I just enjoyed the pain relief of the epidural. It felt truly incredible to feel my body relax completely for the first time since Tuesday and I enjoyed chatting with the nurse.

At 11:30 they checked my dilation again and we were all excited to find that I was now 9 1/2 centimeters. However, Akash still had not moved down at all and we decided to wait a few more hours to see if any further contractions could help move him along. Since nothing was going to happen quite yet, I decided William should keep sleeping and my mom was able to come in and be with me for a bit. It was truly full circle for us, as she had had a challenging labor with me in the same hospital almost exactly 29 years earlier.

By 3:30 on Friday morning he still had not made any progress and we decided to start Pitocin. The midwife from the hospital had me start pushing around 4 am. By this time Michelle was back and we had our favorite nurse from our first hospital stay with us as well. The four of them were an amazing team and fully involved William in the process.

Michelle was an incredible coach for the next two and a half hours. There were many times when it felt like I was pushing with everything I had but not making any process and the sensations were more intense than anything I’d every felt. I was giving everything I thought I had, but when the sensations got stronger, that’s when Michelle told me to embrace that even more. By this point I had forgotten any sense of modesty and was yelling with a volume that matched the intensity of the sensations I was feeling and had completely lost any sense of myself in this process.

There was one moment in particular when I started to get a bit frantic with feeling like this was never going to happen and Michelle looked me right in the eyes and told me to use my breath and center myself and that I knew how to do this. I quickly realized how far I’d gone from my practice and ability to dive into myself and rallied around her words. I fell back on an old rowing practice and focused on taking sets of ten “power breaths,” taking a break between each set. For each set of ten breaths I gave everything I knew how to give and then quickly fell back on the support of the birthing ball behind me when I was done.

Soon Michelle told me to reach down and that I’d be able to feel his head and when I did, I couldn’t believe it. While I could also feel we still had a way to go, I knew that we were also getting closer. This gave me much needed hope and I again leaned into my breath and gave everything I had.

Before I knew it, William said they could see the head about to crown and I gave a few more of the strongest pushes I knew how to give. All of the sudden I heard the exclamations of excitement from everyone and I realized the baby was out! William had been able to catch him and announced that “Shiva was here” to share that he was a boy, before placing him on my chest. I couldn’t believe he was here and just told him again how much I loved him as I tried to take him all in.

Soon he was making it clear it was time for a snack and we gently helped him find my breast, where he quickly latched on and made himself at home. During these first few moments of nursing I also realized the placenta was on it’s way down and after a couple easy pushes, that came out smoothly as well. While Akash was nursing he was still attached to the placenta and it was truly surreal to see him transition from the connection we had shared for so long, to this new one we were both trying to figure out. Soon William was invited to cut the cord and Akash was at once separated from me, yet attached in a whole new way.

breastfeeding, nursingThe day in the hospital was spent sharing our joy with family and then settling in a bit together. Later, we were surprised to hear from the midwife from the hospital that Akash had actually never dropped significantly and that this was the highest vaginal birth she’d seen. Throughout the day the nurses were all wonderful and helped us give Akash his first bath and showed us a few tricks to help make him more comfortable. After a celebratory dinner from the hospital, they let us go home that night and we went to settle into the cabin together.

This entire experience was by far the most humbling one I have had yet. Even though it seemed like for so long that things “should” go a certain way, our experience was so different and still so perfect and beautiful. We were able to share the process more with family, we received incredible care on all levels, and we both have a new appreciation for how western medicine can be used positively and compassionately. While I initially struggled with feeling like I had failed because of the interventions we chose to use, I now feel we were given the opportunity to have the interventions because I needed to learn to not be attached to the way I think things should be or value one experience over another. We truly have to give our best efforts for all that which we can control, and accept and embrace that which we cannot. I have no doubt Akash will continue to show us this, and so many other important lessons throughout our journey ahead and we could not be more thrilled he has decided to join us at long last.

Submitted by Lily V.

Strong and Beautiful and Nothing to Regret

Strong and Beautiful and Nothing to Regret

When I first found out I was pregnant, I knew immediately that I wanted a natural, drug free birthing experience. Months leading up to the birth, I was reading birthing books and articles, Mike (my husband) and I practiced labor positions and relaxation techniques and I felt like I could totally tackled this labor like it was nothing more than a tough yoga class. I was empowered by the idea of having a natural labor and delivery, as all of my family, friends and coworkers would tell you. I wrote a detailed birth plan that I read and re-read for weeks to make sure it covered everything I wanted. My OB and I had talked about alternative delivery positions, since we both agreed delivering while laying on my back would be too uncomfortable for me. (I have an “S” curve case of scoliosis, so we were avoiding being on my back for too long.) I knew it wouldn’t be easy and it would be painful, but I was ready. All that was left was to wait for “D” day.

Around 1:00 am on November 16th, 2014, I woke up for the 100th time to use the bathroom. I noticed a heavier discharge than normal. I couldn’t decide if it was that or if I had peed myself. I changed my bottoms and attempted to go back to sleep. After a couple of hours, I noticed I was still wetting myself and had gone through 2 pairs of underwear. I had just turned 37 weeks, so I started to suspect my water had broken and was slowly leaking. I woke Mike and told him I thought my water broke. He sat up with me for a few minutes, when I started feeling mild cramps. My heart sank…even though I was considered full term, my baby could still have issues and require treatment in the NICU. But, I knew there was no going back. I grabbed a quick shower while Mike finished packing my hospital bag, we grabbed my exercise ball and pillow and headed for the hospital. At 7:00 am it was confirmed that my water had broken…and so it began.

They gave me my initial exam to find that I wasn’t dilated at all…I wasn’t even fully effaced. Dr. Bent (my very patient OB) wanted to fulfil my wish of a drug free labor, so we waited to see if dilation would occur naturally. To make matters complicated, I wasn’t allowed to leave the bed. At all. There was a risk that I could get an infection or have a prolapsed cord, so I also had to labor in bed and use a bed pan. Awesome!

By noon, I still wasn’t fully effaced and I hadn’t dilated one centimeter. The clock was ticking since my water broke first, so they recommended Cytotec, which thins the cervix. I took two of those pills over seven hours and by the end was barely dilated 1 cm. The pill also gave me off the chart contractions every 90 seconds and my body just wasn’t responding. My OB said my water broke before my birth canal was ready, so my body was basically in shock. And because of this he said that the pain I was feeling during my contractions were four times worse than what the average woman feels during labor. Holy cow! By this point, I’d been in labor for 14 hours and was dilated 1 cm. I started to shake uncontrollably in between contractions, vomit, and my blood pressure was unstable, so I was given a sedative to relax my body. It was during this time I decided I needed an epidural.
The epidural was awesome. It didn’t hurt and I was able to relax and get some rest.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get rest for long…I had some serious complications just ahead of me. Shortly after my epidural, my long and severe contractions stopped completely. After trying to monitor my contractions for an hour, it was evident I needed an internal catheter to monitor them. Then all hell broke loose. As the nurse was trying to insert the catheter, I felt a huge, warm gush and the nurse jumped back and turned white. She shot a glance at Mike then looked back down. She told me to not move one inch until the doctor came in to examine me. Mike followed her out of the room to ask what the was going on and she explained to him that I was losing a lot of blood – way more than normal – plus I had a lot of bloody clots, which was concerning to them. She said the way it looked my placenta ruptured and if that was the case then I would need an emergency C section.

Dr. Bent came in and examined me, then watched the baby’s heartbeat for a few minutes. Her vitals were fine, so it could not be a ruptured placenta he said. I Probably just popped a vein in my cervex or placenta. They decided to put me on pitocin, much to my dismay, but I was getting desperate. I was only hooked up to it for three minutes. As soon as they started the pitocin, my baby’s heartbeat dropped dangerously low, so they took me off. After that, I felt the blood drain from my face. My blood pressure plummeted and my baby’s heartbeat was becoming irregular and eventually continued dropping with every small contraction I had. The nurse told me my baby would not be able to tolerate labor and since my blood pressure was so low a c-section was inevitable. I burst into tears. This labor was not at all what I had envisioned. I wanted to experience everything naturally and have a “normal” birth and now none of what I had planned will happen. I might as well have burned that birth plan as I entered the hospital doors. I felt like a failure.

My doctor was in the OR with another patient, so I was told I had an hour before my c-section (about 10:40PM). I was told to relax – easier said than done. My husband would later tell me that at this point, he thought only one of us was going to make it out alive as my baby’s heartbeat was growing slower and slower and I was on oxygen and becoming lethargic.

During this hour, I started feeling increased pressure in my lower back. No matter how hard Mike massaged, it would not go away. It progressively became worse. I finally told the nurse and she assured me the baby’s head probably dropped, so I shouldn’t be concerned. Then it became unbearable and I convinced her to check me. When she examined me, she was floored. I’d been barely 1 cm for well over 19 hours and now I was 5 cm. She called the doctor and he said since I’m progressing naturally to see how far I go before he’s out of the OR. By the time he came into the room, only 30 minutes later, I was at 8, almost 9 cm. It was time. The room was barely prepped for delivery and they had me pushing. She was coming fast and furious! I pushed six times and my sweet baby was here at 11:48 pm. (almost 21 hours of labor.) She was healthy and tolerated the delivery perfectly and as soon as I delivered her, my vitals all returned to normal. I was 30 minutes away from having a c-section when she decided she was finally ready to greet us. I was exhausted – physically and mentally. But all that mattered was she was here and healthy and I had made it through one of the toughest events in my life.

Two weeks passed and I started feeling guilty for getting the epidural and sedative, which I didn’t regret it at the time because I was exhausted and in an abnormal amount of pain. I felt weak for not pushing through the pain. I felt guilty because my body let me down, and more importantly, let my baby down. I was supposed to be the safe vessel for my child and the moment she needed me the most, my body shut down. I felt foolish for telling everyone I was going to have this grand, natural birth when in reality it was far from it.

In the two years since her birth, I’ve come to realize that I shouldn’t feel guilty about my labor experience. I did the best I could with the situation I was dealt. Things happen in life that are out of my control and I have to accept the fact that I had a somewhat complicated labor and I had to do what was right for my baby. In the end, my daughter is beautiful and healthy and that’s all that matters. My decision to have an epidural does not make me less of a mom or weak. Quite the contrary, because I’m a great mom, and I can endure more than I give myself credit for. Women are judged constantly for the decisions they make as moms. It doesn’t matter if I received an epidural and someone else had a natural birth. Just like it doesn’t matter is someone breastfeeds or formula feeds, or chooses to use a pacifier or not. We’re all in this journey together…not one parent gets every single thing right or perfect, but we all do the best we can with what we have. I mean, we brought life into this world and no matter how we chose to do it, the act is strong and beautiful and nothing to regret.

hospital birth, birth without fear

Submitted by Brandy B.

A 45 Minute Home Water Birth

A 45 Minute Home Water Birth

I had four hospital births, all with an epidural. That’s what I thought you were supposed to do when you had a baby – get an epidural and escape from the pain. No one likes pain, so why not skip that part? My first birth was at 41 weeks and three days after my water broke. The second birth was at 40 weeks and one day, and labor started on its own. My third birth, at 41 weeks, also started on its own. Then my fourth birth was induced at 39 weeks and one day.

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It went against everything I believed in, but I felt pressured into it and I caved. It was by far my worst experience. The doctor broke my water and the pain was worse that the actual labor. They gave me an epidural and once it wore off I knew it was pushing time. As they were prepping me to push he was giving me more of the epidural. I was so scared I wouldn’t be able to push my son out. After that birth experience, I knew I didn’t want that again.

When we found out we were having baby number five, I knew I needed to find a midwife (not long after baby number four I found out they still existed). I thank God every day for the only midwife in my area. She was definitely a Godsend. I heard from so many different moms who used her, that she was the best and I would not regret it. She was the best and is the best!

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My due date was September 10th. Nothing happened. A week went by and still nothing, not even real waves. We were getting close to 42 weeks and in Louisiana it’s illegal to have a homebirth midwife after 42 weeks. She stripped my membranes at 41 weeks and three days. My husband and I spent the whole day together without the kids. Still nothing was happening. I had a few waves, but nothing strong enough. I wanted my homebirth. I deserved it. I was going to have it.

As a last resort, I did the unthinkable. The nastiest thing ever: Castor oil. It was the worse. Still nothing happened. This was at 41 weeks and six days. My midwife and her student came to my house, my husband and doula were already with me, and we had to make a plan. She wanted to check me to make sure he had dropped. Well guess what? He hadn’t. She did some pressure points on my uterus and all of a sudden he wiggled down into position. YAY! She suggested we break my water. My husband and I prayed about it and discussed it for a few minutes. We decided to go forward with it and break my water.

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My water was broken at 10pm. My doula had me walking up and down my hallway and doing lounges and squats. It took a little bit, but the waves started coming. I was tested GBS+ and decided to do the IV. As they were trying to give me the IV my waves were getting stronger, but still manageable. I overheard my midwife say, “We don’t have time for this, she is in transition.”

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I got up and had to push. He was coming right then. I squatted between my bed and dresser and just pushed hard and let out a scream. I told my midwife I couldn’t get in the birthing pool. She knew how much I wanted a water birth. Her words I will never forget, ”You are going to get in the pool, Jon’s going to catch your baby, and you are going to have your water birth.” She helped me in the pool along with my husband’s help. Sitting down in that nice warm water was like my own personal drug. That water felt so good. I pushed my son out and my husband caught him. After his placenta was born, we figured out why I didn’t go into labor naturally. My water bag was like leather. When I did have a wave I couldn’t feel it. My son was born at 11:20pm.View More: http://thepottershandphotography.pass.us/tracyharmsPhotography by The Potter’s Hand Photography

A Baby Who Cried: Birthing Without a Plan

A Baby Who Cried: Birthing Without a Plan

All three of my births were far from empowering experiences. I never felt like some sort of superhero. I never felt strong. In fact, after my daughter’s birth, I think I just barely showed up for the others. I checked myself out, terrified of the pain and what was going to happen in the hospital. I mentally stepped out of the experience.

At the young age of 19, I gave birth to my daughter. I had spent weeks working on my birth plan. I wanted so many things for this experience. I had wanted a private room, with just her father and I, my mother when she got there, and the doctor. I wanted dim lights and soft music. Everything I wanted disappeared, because when they realized what was needed to get her into this world, the room filled with people, bright lights, and loud noise.

I had entered the emergency room with a harsh set of contractions that were barely giving me seconds between to breath. I was hyperventilating and my blood pressure was rising. I didn’t know she was stuck, that her head was twisted in my pelvis…that she, my dear daughter, was going to fracture my butt on her way out. I didn’t know that twelve hours of labor, an epidural, a vacuum, and forceps were going to be needed to get her into this world.

And she didn’t cry. It was the most terrifying experience of my life. All of that, and she was silent. The last shred of my birthing plan was tossed out the window as my daughter wasn’t placed on my chest, but instead whisked away to a table surrounded by nurses and doctors and I couldn’t see her. It took 15 minutes for them to bring her to me. Her lungs had been acting up and the cord had been around her neck and her poor head had the marks of the forceps on them, but they gave her to me finally, my quiet baby, and she were perfect.

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So almost three years later, when I found myself back in the hospital to deliver my son, I hadn’t even bothered with a birthing plan. I figured they were a joke, and not worth my time. I just signed up for the epidural and lay and waited for my body to do what it would do. No one ever taught me how to labor. I didn’t have a clue what to do, except pushing. I remembered pushing and so when they told me it was time, I got to work. Mentally, I prepared myself for the vacuum and the forceps and the tearing that would come along with that. I prepared myself for them to take him away from me for a little while. I tried hard to focus on pushing and not let myself get upset about those things.

It was a surprise when instead, a mere six hours after entering the hospital, my son slid into this world and they laid him on my chest. And he was silent. There was nothing wrong with his lungs, and he had come out easily on his own, but he was quiet. My son looked around the room with his dark blue eyes, and didn’t make a sound. It was terrifying. I wanted him to scream his head off, but he didn’t. He was healthy and happy and we even left the hospital a day early with him to come home.

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Now, fast-forward seven years and there I was, talking to the nurses as they hooked up my IVs and the doctor ran through the procedure for the Pitocin. I was barely a week overdue with my youngest son, but the doctor felt he was getting too large and that I needed some help to move him along. In hind sight, I should have let my body do its own thing, but I had no experience with trusting my body. All of my birthing experiences had been dictated by my daughter’s birth when I was too young to trust myself and I let everything I wanted be tossed away.

Two days of induced labor later and we were making little progress. I got to 6cm and they broke my water. I moved up to 7cm and froze there. Suddenly my cervix started to swell and we got back to 6cm, then 5cm. The doctor came in and told me we were going to have to have a C-section. I broke apart, right there on the bed. I completely fell apart. I’d never had surgery and I was terrified of what this meant. I watched my husband back away; sit on the couch and cry.

I don’t remember much from those moments of prep.

I remember a young boy, one who seemed far too young to be working there, coming to take blood work from me. I was sobbing and he kept patting my arm. I apologized for crying and he told me not to say I was sorry.

I remember one of the nurses saying, “Don’t worry. I won’t let him cut through your tattoo.” She laughed and I didn’t.

I remember telling my aunt not to call my mother yet, that it would frighten her and my children.

I remember them taking me away and into a freezing cold room and I looked up and told them to stop everything. “I want my husband. Where is my husband?”

And for once, everyone listened to me. For once, I got exactly what I wanted. Everyone stopped and they moved aside so I could see my husband outside the window as he slid on the blue gown and cap and shoe covers. They didn’t touch me again until he came in the room and then sat him down right next to my face.

I don’t remember my youngest son’s birth much. I don’t remember how it felt, but I remember these moments with my husband so clearly. They completely changed our relationship, opened it up to a whole other level, and made me fall in love with him in a deeper way.

Because when they finally pulled, that large baby boy from me, he cried and cried and I laughed.

“I’ve never had a baby that cried.”

I watched tears fall silently from my husband’s eyes. He barely even looked over at our son as they brought him around and they showed him to us. He simply buried his forehead against mine and cried. Our son was beautiful and screaming his little head off.

But when they asked my husband if he wanted to go with the baby or stay with me, he quickly said, “I’m not leaving her.”

He never took his forehead from mine, my hand clasped tightly in his. Our son was taken to our room with my aunt and best friend, while my husband and I sat together and marveled in one another.
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I have three, beautiful children…and three different birthing stories. They don’t seem nearly as empowering as others I’ve read here. I didn’t go without pain management. I didn’t have much of a birth plan after my first. I just went with the flow of the doctors and nurses around me…

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But I have that moment with my husband where he chose to stay by my side, where he showed every bit of weakness and strength and fear and love that was in him, and I had babies that were quiet and a baby who cried.

I wish I had an empowering story to share about overcoming the pain to have the delivery I wanted, but I truly believe that things happen the way they are meant to and that there is value in everything. These experiences will help me when one day I have a daughter or son who might find they are preparing to help bring a baby into this world.

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I will tell my daughter to trust herself and her body and to learn from others how to handle labor.

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And I will tell my sons to do as their father did.

Our Home Birth, Turned Hospital

Our Home Birth, Turned Hospital

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We were having an amazing homebirth with our midwife team. I had reached 9 1/2 cm, and my body was ready to push. What we didn’t know was that Emma-Leigh had turned “sunny side up” and her head was creating a lip on my cervix that was swelling with each contraction. I swelled all the way down to 6cm, but my body continued to bear down and push with each intense contraction.

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After realizing that my body was unable to correct the problem on its own, and with my strength quickly fading, my husband and midwife team decided I needed to be immediately transferred to the hospital for an epidural. It was a “last resort” to get my body to stop pushing long enough for me to, basically, start labor over again and reach 10cm.

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We arrived at the hospital around midnight and I was able to finally get some rest. The hospital ended up giving me a small dose of Pitocin, after a few hours, to get things going again. That made Emma’s heart rate drop dramatically (WORST moment of my life), but we got everything under control and at 12:20PM on October 3rd, 2015, I vaginally delivered our perfect angel baby.

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Our lives became filled with more love than I ever thought possible. I don’t feel like I had a “failed homebirth” – instead, I am proud of the fact that I labored twice for one birth. It was two days of pre-labor, then a total of 34 hours of active labor.homehospital7

I Am Strong – Enduring 30-Plus Hours of Full Blown Labor

I Am Strong – Enduring 30-Plus Hours of Full Blown Labor

I am strong because when I was in labor, I was in back labor for nine hours and wasn’t progressing so I had to go home.

I am strong because after laboring another 10 hours at home I went to the doctor to get checked and was in full blown labor but only dilated to 3 cm.

I am strong because I did not want an epidural, but more than that, I didn’t want a c-section so I got the epidural to help my body relax and dilate better.

I am strong because I had been up over 24 hours in labor and got the epidural, but because everything was going wrong and they were checking on me every 30 minutes, I never slept.

I am strong because after laboring a full day I wasn’t past 6 cm and had to receive pitocin, which was not in my birth plan.

I am strong because when my temperature spiked, I was given on a nonrebreather face mask to help with my babies decelerations and managed to stay calm.

I am strong because my epidural stopped working when it became time to push at 30+ plus hours, and I had all back labor with the baby posterior.

I am strong because I pushed for three hours to avoid putting my baby through a c-section.

I am strong because I still have sad feelings about getting an epidural and pitocin but look at my healthy baby I know it was all for her.

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